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Issue 1 - March 2008 

"a journey for your ears 

Mike/ Kate 

Cecil Taylor 






Jazz. Improv. 


Editorial 3 

By David Grundy. 

Free Improvisation: The Unfolding Continuum 6 

The 'Five Cardinal Rules' for free improvisers are revealed, mixed in with reflections on the nature and 
value of this method of music-making. By Andy Martin. 

Downtown Music: William Parker 13 

New York's thriving, though threatened, Down Town Music scene is a centre for artistic exploration and 
self-expression. This article examines one of the scene's driving forces: bassist, composer, poet and writer 
William Parker. By Daniel Huppatz. 

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton - Four Days in Italy 21 

In August 2007, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton played a series of concerts in the Italian cities of 
Bologna, Modena, and Reggio Emilia. Anthony Whiteford made the journey to see them play, and, in the 
process of doing so, went on something of a personal odyssey, in which he was led to reflect on what their 
music meant to him before, and means to him now. 

Beware of the Blogs 31 

Are blogs that share rare and out-of-print jazz albums killing the music? Or could they potentially have a 
revitalising effect? This article examines these questions, and provides an in-depth look at some of the most 
notable individual blogs. By David Grundy. 

"Let's not have barriers where we can avoid them": An Interview with 
Mike and Kate Westbrook 41 

When the Westbrooks brought their Village Band to Kettle's Yard in Cambridge late last year, we were on 
hand to chat to them about this project, look back on their prolific career, and discuss the current UK jazz 
scene. Interview by Noa Corcoran-Tadd and David Grundy. 

Paul Rutherford Tribute 53 

The pioneering free improvising trombonist died last year: this is eartrip's tribute to him, which includes 
contributions from fellow musicians Trevor Watts, Veryan Weston, and Mike and Kate Westbrook. 

CD Reviews 59 

A personal top 10 jazz and improv CD releases for 2007, as well as detailed reviews of many more albums 
that came out recently and over the past year, including: Shipp and Shepp, Surman and Bley, Han Bennink, 
Peter Brotzmann, Evan Parker, Terence Blanchard's Katrina requiem, and Keith Tippett. Reviewers 
include David Grundy, Ian Thumwood, Stef Gijssels, Noa Corcoran-Tadd, Henry Kuntz, & Massimo Ricci. 

Gig Reviews 169 

A weekend of free jazz at the Royal Festival Hall, back in July: Ornette Coleman's three-bass band, plus 
Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton's historic first encounter. Charles Gayle's mini-UK tour, Sonny 
Simmons with UK noisemakers Tight Meat, and more. Reviewers include David Grundy, centrifuge, Ian 
Thumwood, Rod Warner and Scott McMillan. 

Closing Words / List of Contributors 203 


Hello. Well, here it is: the first issue of this new magazine. It's turned out to be 
quite substantial in length, partly because of the lengthy reviews section (which covers 
the whole of 2007) - I can't promise that that will be kept up. eartrip does not claim to be 
any thing more than a mere snapshot of the vast amount of exciting stuff that's going on 
in the worlds of jazz and improvised music today - in England, Europe, America, all over 
the world. It's something of a pet project, which has taken pretty much half a year to 
bring into being, through the making of contacts via e-mail and telephone and letters, and 
immersing myself as much as possible in music, exposing myself to new artists, new 
styles - all that makes me thrill with the shock of the new, the unexpected. 'Adventures 
in sound' is the tagline of another, very well-known magazine focussing on avant-garde 
music -if I may take that phrase and modify it slightly, perhaps what I'm going to be 
concentrating on is 'epiphanies in sound.' 

At a time when the majority of pop music feels homogenous, has a distinct lack of 
experimentation or desire to push beyond the boundaries of what is expected and 
accepted, at a time when pop music acts as ear-candy, quickly swallowed and digested, 
then forgotten about, we have to ask ourselves: is this all we want from our generation's 
creative artists? Is this we all want - the comforting wash, the aural cocoon - or do we 
want something else; do we want the startling glimpse, that moment of strange clarity 
when, "for a second [we] get it whole," as the English poet Philip Larkin put it? 

Another question arising from the consideration of these issues - is pop music 
really where most of the world is at? Or would most people, given the chance, given 
more sympathetic presentation in mainstream media, given a deeper, less vapid cultural 
understanding as a matter of course - would most people throw themselves beyond the 
accustomed, realising that there is something more to explore, a vein of rich expression 
that you're really not going to find on the Spice Girls Reunion Tour? Maybe they would, 
maybe they wouldn't, but we'll never know without trying. And of course, I don't expect 
this magazine to reach a very wide readership - many, probably most of those looking at 
these words will be people already fully convinced by, and immersed in, the sort of music 
I'm talking about. I realise that it's music you have to work hard at; but then, the best 
things in life don't come free, and, the greater the effort you put, in the greater the reward 
you draw out. So it is with much of the music that eartrip will cover. 

For the most part, then, the magazine will not focus on the mainstream, the well- 
known, the popular - not because of elitism or snobbery, but because I genuinely feel that 
there is a lot of music out there which is unfairly neglected and which deserves serious 
coverage. Of course, there are already plenty of people writing about improvised music, 
often online: many blogs offer incisive commentary and downloads of rare, out-of-print 
music, and online magazines like Point of Departure, Touching Extremes and Paris 
Transatlantic all are well worth looking at. Of major publications, probably the best- 
known is The Wire, which started off by focussing on jazz and improvised music, but has 
since moved away from this initial core, so that those elements are increasingly pushed to 
one side in favour of other types of experimental and 'left-field' music. It's still an 
excellent publication, but few magazines actually cover its original territory, so I thought 
I'd step in. I'm not pretending that this is the greatest, most in-depth coverage you're 

likely to find, but I have a real interest in this music and a desire to, hopefully, bring it to 
a wider audience. 

So, the above is something of a 'mission statement', I suppose. Now onto the 
meat of the magazine, what's actually going to be appearing in the following pages. It 
may seem somewhat strange to make the first issue of a new magazine retrospective, 
which, in a sense, it is, looking as it does at the highlights of last year in terms of jazz and 
improvised music. However, I think this is symptomatic of what eartrip will be trying to 
do: celebrate the achievements of the past, present and future, making sure that we don't 
forget the past masters whose legacies mean so much, but also that we focus on prospects 
for the future, and the people who are making living, breathing, organic music now. 

With this in mind comes a roundup of the previous year's best CDs and gigs: 
from the complex and difficult work of composer Richard Barrett's group fORCH to the 
more accessible and dreamy, almost ambient sounds of a remarkable jazz album by indie- 
rock band His Name is Alive (no joke - this is the real deal!) You can also find opinions 
and dissections of many more recent releases in what will be a regular reviews section. 

As for concerts, there's an in-depth review of the landmark first meeting between 
pianist Cecil Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton (the first jazz gig at the 
newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall in London), plus thoughts on UK tours by 
saxophonists Charles Gayle and Sonny Simmons. Also featured is an article on Taylor's 
and Braxton's concerts in Italy, later that summer, in which Anthony Whiteford describes 
how these events took him on something of a personal odyssey, where he was forced to 
ask some difficult questions about what the music of these two avant-garde titans has 
meant in his life. It really is a fascinating read. 

Unfortunately, 2007 also seems to have been a particularly bad one in terms of 
how many great musicians and composers passed away: Alice Coltrane, Andrew Hill, 
Leroy Jenkins, Mike Osborne, Paul Rutherford, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Donald Ayler, 
Joe Zawinul, Ike Turner, Art Davis, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Frank Morgan, Oscar 
Peterson, and Michael Brecker. As well as making us value the greats we've got left all 
the more, such reminders of mortality may cause us to wonder who among the younger 
generation has the potential to carry the flame, to carry forward a legacy of innovation 
and full-throttle creative energy into what is still a young century. Such considerations 
pop up at various points in the magazine. 

More specifically, this issue will feature a tribute to Paul Rutherford, perhaps the 
most under-appreciated of all the musicians listed above, but one of the greatest 
exponents of free improvisation, who earned the almost unanimous respect of his 
musicians and peers. 

There'll also be an interview with two of the key players in the British jazz scene 
for the past half-century: Mike and Kate Westbrook. Perhaps eclipsed by that other great 
jazz couple, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, it could nevertheless be argued that their 
contribution is even more significant. Their compositions and performances have 
encompassed everything from classical to jazz, cabaret to opera, Ellington to the Beatles 
to Rossini to William Blake, literature and the visual arts, poetry, parody, pastiche and 
pure inspiration. Their most recent concerts have been with a new project, a small group 
that very much emphasises the local, and sees the mix of the old and the modern that I 
mentioned before. During the interview, they discussed this and a wide range of other 
issues: it should make interesting reading. 

The Westbrooks have a fairly close connection (in the spirit, if not always 
obviously in the mechanics of their music) with what the uncompromising avant-garde 
guitarist Derek Bailey termed 'non-idiomatic free improvisation.' What precisely this 
constitutes is a matter of debate, and one which is addressed in an article by a sometime 
punk-rocker, sometime-author, and sometime free improviser, Andy Martin. Early in 
2007, the band of which he is a member, UNIT, gave a performance at the annual, 
London-based showcase of free improvisation, the Freedom of the City festival. He 
himself describes what they played as a "horrible racket," but this negative experience 
prompted him to write an insightful essay in which he looks at the risks and rewards that 
go with this type of music. Eye-opening reading, especially if you're coming to free 
improv for the first time, and even if you're not. 

It's not just Britain that appears in the pages of this magazine: we also present an 
article by Dan Huppatz, focussing on New York's thriving 'Downtown Scene.' More 
specifically, the subject is the prolific and versatile bassist, campaigner and educator 
William Parker. 

Worldwide, the increasingly availability and improved performance of 
technology, particularly the internet, has created a whole new set of possibilities and 
potential problems for all kinds of music: jazz is no exception. I'll be examining the case 
of 'sharity' blogs, asking questions about the legal and moral issues involved in fans 
making out-of-print music available on the internet. 

So, as you can see, an eclectic bill, one which to some extent encompasses the 
diversity to be found in jazz and improvised music. 

Please bear in mind that this is a fledgling publication and this first issue is 
essentially just a starting point, a launch-off pad for what will, if all goes well, increase in 
quality and depth with each new edition. Ideally, I would have liked to make it a print 
publication (my original plan), but I realised that it going to be just too difficult 
maintaining such a venture, what with the costs of printing and distribution, and the 
generally unfavourable climate for serious jazz and improvised music today. But 
hopefully, whatever the format, you'll find much to enjoy, inspire, and challenge, inside. 
I wish you happy reading! 

David Grundy 

Send suggestions, corrections and thoughts to dmgrundy (gjhotmail . co . uk , or write to 
David Grundy, Robinson College, Cambridge, CB3 9AN. 

Lessons To Be Learnt 

Andy Martin is a member of the group Unit. Formed in 1994, its origins lie in a punk 
band called The Apostles, formed in 1981, which subsequently became Academy 23, before 
finally changing to the present name. (Guitarist/vocalist/ lyricist/occasional drummer Martin and 
bass guitarist Dave Fanning have been the only two constant presences in all three bands.) Since 
2000, the group has been through numerous line-ups, each one recording an album musically 
different from the last, and making it impossible to restrict them to any one genre - they've 
tackled everything from post-punk, prog rock, and pop, to avant-garde, jazz and free improv. 
They appeared at the Freedom of the City Festival on Sunday 6 X May 2007, contributing a freely 
improvised set as part of that day's afternoon concert, and this performance led indirectly to the 
writing of the article below, as Andy Martin explains: 

This essay was written by me in response to a request (virtually a demand) made by 2 
members of our group, namely percussionist Ngo Achoi and keyboard player Luc Tran. After our 
somewhat inauspicious debut at Freedom Of The City in May 2007 (I am being outrageously 
polite here), saxophonist Thanh Trung Nguyen actually left the group with the complaint I'm not 
playing any more of this nonsense. ' This was followed by the observation 'you lot wouldn 't know 
a decent tune if it jumped onto your kitchen table and danced a tango. ' I was irritated, annoyed 
and upset that a highly competent 1 7 year old musician should respond to free improvisation in 
such a stridently hostile manner. It was this, combined with the horrible racket we made on May 
6th, that prompted Luc and Achoi to commission this piece from me. It was originally designed 
purely as an 'in-house ' document to be read by the other 4 remaining group members. Achoi then 
sent it (without my consent, as usual) to the Resonance forum and suggested I also send it to what 
he called 'the David Grundy Forum '! (http://ihatemusic. noquam. com) Now it appears here, 
thanks entirely to the kind invitation of Mr Grundy to include it in this magazine. 

Unit, appearing at the Freedom of the City Festival, 2007. From left to right: Andy Martin (guitar), Luc 
Tran (keyboard), Dave Fanning (bass), Thanh Trung Nguyen (alto sax), Cheung Yiu Munn (flute). 

On May 7th 2007 UNIT played what remains, to date, their worst, most inept and 
ineffably boring live performance ever. Nothing can atone for the excruciating tedium to 
which we subjected not only the audience but also ourselves in the Red Rose Club that 
Sunday afternoon. Nearly 300 people were witness to 5 intrepid individuals making utter 
fools of themselves on a stage as they plodded with ineffable confusion through a miasma 
of thoroughly grim sonic doodles for half an hour in the name of free improvisation. 
Almost all those people had never heard of UNIT previously; all of them must surely 
have prayed to whatever deity was available that they might never hear us again. I can 
only empathise with them. 

During the 2 months that followed this most inauspicious start to our career in 
free improvisation, I formulated The Five Cardinal Rules which perhaps more advanced 
performers may care to subvert or challenge but which are absolutely essential for players 
new to this most demanding form of music making. These 'rules' were useful for me as a 
player and exponent of free improvisation but they were primarily formulated to assist 
the other group members, all of whom realised we had gone seriously wrong on that 
fateful day in the Red Rose Club but none of them comprehended exactly how and why 
we had lost the plot. Since the other 4 are far more technically proficient musicians than 
I, then by what right do I bestow upon myself the role of educator? A possibly dubious 
one: I have listened to far more examples of successful free improvisation they have they 
and I (at present) have a far greater love for this music than do they. That at least 3 of 
them wished to pursue this form and try to achieve a degree of success in it is also what 
prompted me to agree to their request for a short exposition on 'how to play free 

After I had finished, I realised that these 'rules' might be useful to other 
musicians in our situation or even to people who have begun to take an interest in such 
music but who are unable to comprehend what motivates and informs its often bizarre 
sounds and weird sonic environments. Actually, both Eddie Prevost and Derek Bailey 
have already performed this task adequately over a series of 3 excellent books but, 
perhaps generated by some perverse desire to impose my own personality and experience 
on the subject, I still find it necessary to add my own contribution to the literature on the 
subject. I hardly need to justify this but should anyone insist then I can do so by revealing 
the woefully tiny amount of intelligent books written on the theory, practise and 
appreciation of free improvisation. Most of the more recognised practitioners are, shall 
we say, of an older generation and it is important to me that if people of a younger 
generation (Luc is 18, for example) are to be encouraged to participate then they need to 
understand why the aficionados of free improvisation are so ardently enthusiastic and 
exceptionally intense in their discussions, debates and discourses on this most fascinating 
of all musical adventures. 

Failure to explain clearly and intelligently 'what it's all about', when combined 
with the rigid assertiveness of youthful confidence, can result in alienation of the worst 
kind. After our performance I was so angry with what I perceived to be the selfishness of 
2 members of the group (who played so loudly that Luc could rarely be heard and I was 
drowned out completely throughout the entire performance until toward the end I threw 
my toys out of the pram and attacked my acoustic guitar with spoons and sticks) that I 
read the riot act in no uncertain terms. Trung left the group shortly afterwards, not so 
much because of what I said but because he could not understand how competent 

musicians (U-J, Luc and Dave) could 'waste their time making a self indulgent tuneless 
racket that any 5 year old could play'. (He later added, on his departure from the group 
'you're all arty weirdos who wouldn't know a decent tune if it jumped up on a table and 
did the charlston' !) This is the kind of damning indictment I would expect from a 60 year 
old bigot (or maybe a 16 year old punk rocker) but Trung is a highly competent and 
creative jazz saxophonist who has listened intensely to Charlie Parker, that in itself highly 
unusual for a 17 year old Vietnamese. He does himself a disservice by displaying such 
conservatism. C'est la vie. 

Time for a brief digression: just because we allegedly indulged in a form of music 
that 'any 5 year old could play', does that automatically mean that our participation in it 
was invalid? Am I meant to accept that music played by 'any 5 year old' is worthless and 
possesses no legitimate claim to our attention? Is music invented and performed by 5 year 
old people less valid (on any level you choose) than that invented and performed by other 
age groups? Discuss. 

These 'rules' are what I believe are required to ensure that UNIT make progress 
in their attempts to perform free improvisation in a manner liable to make a valid 
contribution to the genre, if indeed it can really be called a 'genre'. I am also convinced 
that most other inexperienced performers would find them beneficial but frequent 
exposure to different free improvisations played by other people and continued 
familiarity with the language in their own performances may result in the desire to 
modify these 'rules' in order to render them appropriate to their own needs. However, I 
doubt that even after such modifications have been made the 'rules' would be radically 
different to the form in which they appear below. 

1) Play only when it is absolutely essential to do so. Do you need to play anything 
at the moment? Does what you are playing actually contribute in any meaningful manner 
to the music / silence you hear? Just because you can play does not automatically mean 
you have to play. 

2) Play what the music requires. What can you hear around you? If you play now, 
will it unfairly dominate, drown out and obscure what the quietest instruments / voices 
are playing? What ever you do play (if you decide to play at all), it must be what the 
music needs, not what you need. There is no room for the empty gestures of egotism in 
genuine free improvisation. 

3) Be responsible for what you play and be aware of what is happening around 
you. You hear a kind of music playing to which you wish to respond. Do you try to copy 
it in your own style or play something entirely different? Which of the two will make the 
most interesting or musically valid contribution to the music as a whole? This includes 
extraneous sounds that may intrude during quiet moments (police sirens, aeroplanes, bird 
song, audience coughs or, of course, the inevitable mobile phone playing Fur Elise). 
Ignore these at your peril! 

4) Learn to appreciate the value of silence. In free improvisation more than any 
other form of music making, silence is not only important but sometimes essential in 
order for the music to make aesthetic sense. All the best free improvisers not only 
appreciate the true value of silence but they also utilise it for the benefit of the music. 

5) Do not ever be afraid to take risks. Do not ever be afraid to fail. In the absence 
of risks, free improvisation stagnates into cliche and formula. Free improvisation always 

includes a propensity for failure. You can make mistakes but try to ensure you make the 
right mistakes. If you fail, strive to ensure that you fail better than you did last time. If 
these 2 sentences make no sense to you, then play free improvisation with a small group 
of performers every day for a month. After that time, I guarantee you will understand 
precisely what is meant by these statements. 

Free improvisation is not a 'jam' (which is a disgusting rockist word). It is not a 
space for you to show what you can do. Virtuoso displays are a symptom of bourgeois 
music practise and have no place in free improvisation. Technical prowess is highly 
desirable but not absolutely essential, provided you have assimilated and put into practise 
the 5 cardinal rules. What is crucial to learn and remember is that once a free 
improvisation becomes a lead soloist being accompanied by a band, the music loses much 
of its credibility unless such a moment is actually dictated by the need of the music. In 
this case the 'solo' must only be of a duration sufficient to make musical sense. This 
applies to ordinary rock groups. It is why Emerson, Lake & Palmer are frequently tedious 
and boring while Egg rarely are. Both are progressive rock trios comprised of keyboards, 
electric bass guitar and drums with the bass guitarist doubling as a vocalist. There the 
similarities end. Most of the former group's music consists of incessant keyboard 
pyrotechnics (especially in a live concert context) with the other 2 musicians relegated 
(bullied) into subordinate roles. Egg never descended into such rockist mediocrity which 
is why their music is still vibrant and exciting 35 years later. As an aside, 2 of our 
youngest members discovered ELP in 2002 but became bored with them within a year yet 
they now have all 3 CDs by Egg and still listen to them. 

Rule 3 contains an aspect generally ignored or at least not understood by most 
normal musicians. I prefer not to go to live classical concerts anymore, mainly due to the 
middle class snobs they attract (although this now applies to punk gigs, too - perhaps that 
always has been the case, at least in Britain) but partly because I find the amount of noise 
and kerfuffle generated by the audience intolerable. I detest cinemas for this same reason 
- being stuck in a large hall with dozens of odious people is not my idea of fun. In fact, 
that Freedom Of The City event is probably the only time ever when I have been in a 
large room filled to capacity with humanity and I have not ardently wished for a Bren gun 
with plenty of live ammo. Extraneous noise is an irritant at a conventional concert 
because such sounds interfere with the works being performed - although I suppose 
aeroplanes flying overhead during a performance of the Mechanical Ballet by George 
Antheil would add an appropriate ambience. In a free improvisation, however, the sound 
of a cough, a chair scraping across the floor, that Boeing 747, a police siren, electronic 
feedback or even that inevitable mobile phone can be utilised as an additional sound 
source during the performance. If a violinist looks through a window and catches sight of 
a dog savaging a cat in the street, he/she may be distracted and spoil that pretty Mozart 
sonata with the inadvertent insertion of wrong notes (which personally I'd enjoy, mainly 
because I detest Mozart - give me Messiaen any day). If he/she is engaged in a free 
improvisation, however, the incident may well inspire him/her to add something new and 
interesting to the musical proceedings. 

One of the prime aspects of free improvisation - perhaps it is not accidental that 
some people refer to it as 'left field music' - in fact its most powerful and liberating 


property - is that authoritarianism is anathema to it. This does not mean that 'anything 
goes'. This music is never a licence for pure self expression as a free for all. Just as a 
platoon without an N.C.O. requires a formidable measure of self discipline in order to 
function, so with the freedom inherent in this music comes a critical degree of 
responsibility. Implicit in free improvisation is an opposition to hierarchical structures 
imposed by composers, arrangers and leaders who believe they have a right to govern the 
rest of us. This is of such profound importance that it is essential that free improvisation 
(like its visual counterpart, abstract expressionism) is treated with respect and taken 
seriously by its practitioners. Beware: I do not mean that the performers must deliberately 
strive to adopt an aura of profundity. If its performers are really inspired and technically 
able then that will happen anyway. No, I mean that it is permissible (perhaps often 
essential) to be able to have fun, to appreciate humorous moments yet simultaneously 
never trivialise or under estimate the musical process. 

Ngo Achoi (our manager) once suggested - in fact he still insists - that extra- 
musical factors form a valid contribution to individuals and groups new to free 
improvisation, as a method of orientation and a means by which to ease themselves into 
this most difficult of forms. The group can be given a basic framework (play fast and 
quietly, omit that instrument after this amount of time and so on) or some other prop / 
crutch such as a given title, an idea, an emotion or a colour on which to hang their 
musical exploration. I read with interest the opinions of Eddie Prevost whose insistence 
that these external frames, rather than help facilitate a musical event, actually inhibit it 
since they interfere with the process due to their imposition on what the music actually 
attempts to say. In other words, the minds of musicians need to be free from all such 
external concerns in order to create the best possible conditions in which a free 
improvisation can be created. On every other day of the week, I agree emphatically with 
this. On the other days, I acknowledge Achoi holds a perfectly valid belief. In our 
experience, limiting (or even inhibiting) our creative freedom by the deliberate 
imposition of such external rules or frameworks has resulted in music that is, to me, just 
as interesting, intriguing and genuinely satisfying as the most pure, strictly abstract 
attempts. When there is a total absence of any aids, props or external frameworks, 
perhaps it is the stark beauty of a total free improvisation created under such austere 
conditions that raises it above the level of most other music forms. Well, if you are AMM 
or MEV you can achieve this. Us lesser mortals often it useful (perhaps even occasionally 
essential) to resort to whatever aids, props or external frameworks we can devise, like 
games invented to help learn a language, before we are ready to launch ourselves into that 
complete otherness which the very best free improvisers manage to explore so 

Is free improvisation idiomatic? A vast over-simplification would be to claim that 
Derek Bailey says 'yes' and Edwin Prevost says 'no'. Actually it is more complex than 
that. Listen to a few third rate, uninspired performances and you may well agree with the 
assertion by Mr Bailey that free improvisation can tend to become idiomatic after a 
while. However, 3 days spent at the Freedom Of The City event in May 2007 has 
persuaded me to adopt a belief system that is more sympathetic towards (yet not 
completely in accord with) Mr Prevost. When Trung complains that free improvisation is 
'a racket', I can (almost) sympathise with him. U-J asked me later why a free 
improvisation couldn't be in, say, Bb Major. I had to stop for a moment to consider that. 


In theory, I concluded that there is no justifiable reason I could conceive for a free 
improvisation not to include a passage in Bb Major (or any other key) provided the 
players entered into the key as a natural and logical progression from what they had been 
playing earlier. Players need to be careful, though: once you enter into a recognisable 
key, where do they go from there? To remain in the same key for a long period is to be 
shackled to the drudgery endured by audiences of so many bland, tediously onerous 
'jams' by The Grateful Dead (or most other late 1960s psychedelic outfits whose capacity 
for hallucinogenic substances was usually inversely proportional to their musical 

Is there a 'free improvisation style'? Surely not! The phrase seems ludicrous - 
perhaps. However, it takes novices and people who don't like the sound of it to venture 
opinions which are illuminating. Both Luc (who does not like much free improvisation 
although he does find it interesting and treats it with respect) and Trung (who despises it 
so completely that he is unable even to take it seriously) have made comments about free 
improvisation that its more ardent acolytes might prefer to remain unspoken. In answer to 
Achoi who maintained that free improvisation by its very nature can never be idiomatic 
(a provocative statement), Trung said 'There's never a steady beat or pulse and you never 
hear people playing in the same key. It's always a tuneless racket.' Luc was more 
introspective: 'It's a pity you can't have a kind of free improv where there are 
recognisable melodies and harmonies and where people obviously play together in 
ensemble passages.' I can well imagine how Mr Bailey and Mr Prevost would respond to 
these sentiments although perhaps there would be dissention in their responses. 

I argue that free improvisation liberates music from the cage of static pulses and 
the tyranny of key systems. However, that is why it requires even more discipline and 
awareness - in traditional music the notes are all written down and you can play the piece 
without even having to think about it. This is how it is possible for a performance of what 
could be a wonderful, dramatic classical work to end up being tiresome and onerous, 
because the players have been paid to do a job and nothing more. This is particularly 
obvious in very popular, famous works where we can almost hear the musicians groan 
'Oh bugger this, not the frigging Jupiter Symphony yet again.' In traditional music, the 
problems of musical direction are solved during the composition so all the performers 
need do is obey the instructions given by the notes on the staves in order to give a faithful 
rendition of the piece. In theory therefore any group of performers could give identically 
correct performances of it. In free improvisation, the problems of musical direction are 
solved during the actual performance. Here music itself is the master, not the composer. 

The problem is that this is a kind of music that is still so 'out there' that it is 
extremely difficult to avoid cliche and formula. It is also why an album by (for example) 
AMM sounds as if it could have been recorded at any time between 1966 and 2006. It 
never sounds 'dated' except that we can say it is unlikely to have been made any earlier 
than 1966 because they hadn't formed as a group prior to that. What about some other 
group of free improvisers then? Why did people only start playing free improvisation in 
the 1960s? Well actually people were playing free improvisation long before that but not 
in Britain. Here I recommend the book Improvisation: Its Nature And Practise In Music 
by Derek Bailey, published by The British Library, for details on the history of 
improvisation, free or otherwise. In the interest of full comprehension, if you are going to 
read that brief but concise tome then it is also essential to read Minute Particulars by 


Edwin Prevost, published by Copula in 2004. While you are there, you may as well read 
its companion, No Sound Is Innocent, same author and publisher in 1995. I suspect the 
emperor really is wearing clothes but perhaps we can too often discern a trend that 
informs much of his wardrobe? 

In the superbly accurate and pithy (but sadly less celebrated) speech in Riverside 
Church, 1967, Martin Luther King referred to the unfolding conundrum of life. . .at the 
risk of trivialising the content of his words (which in this case I would be loathe to do), 
therein lies a most apposite depiction of the quest for magical music that all free 
improvisers pursue - for is not all free improvisation an unfolding conundrum that offers 
a sonic equivalent of human exploration? 

Andy Martin © 2007 

^1 ^h^ 


Derek Bailey and Eddie Prevost, authors of the two important books on free improvisation 
recommended by Andy Martin. 


Downtown Music: William Parker 

By Daniel Huppatz 

This article addresses improvised music from downtown New York - a scene 
that, though vital and creative, may well be geographically disappearing or at least 
shifting with the closure of downtown clubs and steadily increasing Manhattan rents. I 
have begun my music research here by focusing on a mainstay of New York's downtown 
improvised music scene, William Parker. Given he has such a long and distinguished 
career and appears on literally hundreds of recordings, I will restrict myself to a particular 
timeframe, the mid-1990s to the present, which marks roughly the time Parker began 
making albums as a leader. Downtown music, which I'm not going to attempt to define 
too closely here, is above all characterized by its eclecticism and DIY attitude, though 
Parker's music comes more specifically out of an African- American tradition of largely 
improvised music that now seems broader in scope than the word "jazz" implies. 

This, and following posts on New York downtown music, are written partially as 
a response to recent intense listening and concert-going on my part but also partially as a 
result of reading what appears at this time to be the only book covering this type of music 
in any serious detail, Phil Freeman's, New York is Now: The New Wave of Free Jazz 
(Brooklyn, NY: The Telegraph Company, 2001). A combination of interview material, 
album and concert reviews, Freeman's book is unfortunate for a number of reasons - 
while he writes with great passion and enthusiasm, Freeman's range is very narrow in 
scope ("jazz" only) and the music is poorly contextualized and completely depoliticized. 
Indeed, the written material about this type of music is almost exclusively album reviews, 
liner notes, interviews (many listed below in the further links) and the John Zorn-edited 
Arcana books which comprise writings by musicians. So perhaps this series might 
represent the beginning of further positioning of New York improvised music beyond 
reviews and interviews. Before I start, I want to acknowledge up front the problem of 
utilizing the slow technology of words in response to contemporary improvised music - 
there's an inherent futility in writing about such an ephemeral and spontaneous artform - 
so I won't be translating particular albums or tracks into words (besides, there are plenty 
of reviews around) but instead attempting to contextualize the music and suggest some 
ways of thinking through it. 

William Parker: Introduction 

A New York native, William Parker began playing bass in the New York loft 
scene in the early 1970s, playing with older musicians including Don Cherry, Sunny 
Murray, Bill Dixon, Billy Bang and Frank Lowe. His first official recording released was 
an album with Frank Lowe (Black Beings, ESP, 1973). According to various interviews, 
Parker studied with bassists including Richard Davis, Wilbur Ware and Jimmy Garrison 
during the 1970s. He was a member of the Cecil Taylor Unit from 1980 until the mid- 
1990s, and during the mid-1980s also played with German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann 
and connected with the European free improvisation scene. From 1989 Parker played 
with the David S. Ware Quartet, recording a series of albums for independent labels and 
even a couple for the major label, Columbia Jazz. The David S. Ware Quartet, one of the 
most vital forces in 1990s improvised music, consisted of David S. Ware on tenor sax, 
Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass and a series of drummers including 


Marc Edwards, Whit Dickey, Susie Ibarra 
and Guilliermo E. Brown. Though this 
group seems to be disbanded with their 
celebrated last album released recently 
{Renunciation, a live recording from the 
2006 Vision Festival), they may still play 
together for one-off events. 

Parker finally emerged as a leader, 
with his own various projects from the 
1990s to the present. During this time, he 
stepped out of a sideman role to become 
heir to Charles Mingus' legacy of the 
bassist-composer-band leader. Parker's 
most prominent and long-standing projects 
since 1990 are: Other Dimensions in Music 
(active since the early 1980s, though they 
didn't officially record until 1988), 
featuring Roy Campbell Jr (trumpet), 
Daniel Carter (saxes), William Parker 
(bass), Rashid Bakr (drums); In Order to 
Survive quartet (1993-2000), featuring Rob 
Brown (alto sax), Cooper-Moore (piano), 
William Parker (bass) and Susie Ibarra (drums); the Little Huey Creative Music 
Orchestra (active since 1995), a big band combo featuring a host of players varying from 
a dozen to over twenty; and the William Parker Quartet (active since 2000), featuring 
Rob Brown (alto sax), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake 
(drums). Although these are Parker's major projects since 1990, Parker has also lead 
various other groups and appeared on numerous recordings as a sideman (for a full 
sessionography see links below). Most notable is the variety of music he has played, from 
free to straight-ahead jazz to a hip hop album {Anti-Pop Consortium vs. Matthew Shipp, 
2003), albums with DJ Spooky and even his own Curtis Mayfield tribute band. 

Both Parker and David S. Ware were part of the generation of New York 
musicians who came of age in the 1970s "loft scene" when clubs closed (or at least 
closed to avant-garde music), resulting in musicians starting their own clubs in lofts, 
private homes or hired venues such as churches. Like Parker, Ware was also a Cecil 
Taylor alumni briefly in the mid-1970s. They followed the "breakthrough" generation of 
New York's free jazz of the 1960s, of whom Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Ornette 
Coleman, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp are the best known exponents. The 1970s "loft 
jazz" generation are often overlooked in jazz histories, where they are overshadowed by 
accolades showered upon the 60s free jazz "masters". It is important to note too, the 
revolutionary fervor of 60s free jazz died down somewhat in the 1970s with, on the one 
hand, the ascendancy of rock music and the other, the closure of many of the New York 
clubs and spaces, either physically, or conceptually closing to avant-garde music. 
Though, as LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) wrote in Black Music, there was a 
downtown loft scene even in the 1960s (see the essay "New York Loft and Coffee Shop 
Jazz", 1963, featuring Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, et al). So, 


rather than a completely new phenomenon, the 1970s loft jazz scene may also be seen as 
a continuation from the previous decade of musicians creating their own venues and 
developing their own audiences. 

In a 2005 interview, Parker cited a series of late 1960s recordings as a key to 
understanding his aesthetics and musical philosophy: Albert Ayler's Love Cry and Spirits 
Rejoice, Coltrane's^4 Love Supreme, Pharaoh Sanders' Karma, Charles Mingus' Fables 
ofFaubus and Archie Shepp's Things Have Got to Change. Parker states that with these 
recordings, "you got basically four things — spirituality, politics, the special ideas of space 
and time, and the tradition of folk and world music." (" Everything is Valid ", interview 
with William Parker by Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz, March 2005) These four then, 
will provide a starting point for an understanding of William Parker's music. Certainly 
these ideas are no means restricted to the music of Parker, and by extension might also 
apply to other musicians of his generation still working in improvised music out of a jazz 
tradition in New York. I will discuss, in turn, the four ideas Parker presents: the spiritual 
dimension of music, the political dimension that arose out of Black Nationalism, the 
reinvention of musical space and time, and finally, the influence of an increasingly 
eclectic range of folk music. 


"The movement is through our souls, the subtle dance of flower petals opening. The muted trumpet 

blowing dust off a mountain." 

William Parker, Who Owns Music? ', Koln: Buddy's Knife Jazzedition, 2007, p. 107. 

The 1960s free jazz generation pushed the limits of previous generations of bebop 
and hard bop outside of conventional rhythmic, harmonic and melodic structures, with 
musicians also pushing their instruments to the limits in free-form collective 
improvisations. But importantly, beyond the much-reviewed formal revolution, 60s free 
jazz represented for many a (re)connection to spirituality. The overtly mystical quality of 
John Coltrane's late albums (post-^4 Love Supreme) or Albert Ayler's music (Spiritual 
Unity, etc) continued with Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and others through the 1970s. 
In Amiri Baraka's first book, Blues People (1963), he traced a continuum from early 
African-American church music and slave music to modern jazz of the 1950s. In the 
1960s, he updated this tradition in the essay "The Changing Same (R&B and New Black 
Music)" (1966). Here, Baraka he connected both the free jazz scene and the R&B scene 
(exemplified by James Brown) specifically with a spiritual quest: "It is expanding the 
consciousness of the given that they are interested in, not merely expressing what is 
already there, or alluded to. They are interested in the unknown. The mystical." (LeRoi 
Jones/ Amiri Baraka, Black Music, New York: Quill, 1967, p. 188) Baraka also noted the 
bleaching process in which much cool "white" jazz of the 1950s and 60s was formalized 
and cleansed of said spirituality to become more like secular European classical music. 

Parker's musical journey from the 1970s to the present represents a continuation 
of many of the 60s free jazz ideals, including this spiritual or mystical element. Certainly 
the work of the David S. Ware Quartet in the 1990s can be seen as a direct descendent of 
60s transcendent music. Ware's raw, powerful tenor tone typically builds from simple 
melodic themes, which Shipp infuses with gospel-or blues-tinged harmonies, while 
Parker and drummer Brown provide rhythmic pulsations below as the music swirls in 
waves of expansive energy. The raw energy of their early albums gives way to a more 


circumspect or meditative spiritual quest in albums like Surrendered (2000), continuing 
the spirit of Pharaoh Sanders or Alice Coltrane's music from the 1970s. 

More recently, in interviews, liner notes and a book of his writings about music, 
Who Owns Music?, Parker stresses the importance of transcendence. He argues that 
improvisers/composers (he makes no distinction) develop their own entry point into what 
he terms the "sound stream", "the eternal space where music lives. The muse-physicians 
tap into the sound stream to have music flow back through them." (Parker, Who Owns 
Music?, Koln: Buddy's Knife Jazzedition, 2007, p. 78) Rather than a romantic creative 
genius model, Parker suggests that the musician is a conduit for sound - music flows 
through them (rather than originating "inside") and the musician draws from the "sound 
stream" in the creation of cosmic music, creating a "porthole to the tone world" {Who 
Owns Music?, p. 60). By returning to the idea of the musician as "muse-physician", 
Parker reinstates an ancient role for the musician in society as a healer, shaman or priest, 
while at the same time (re)connecting recent New York downtown music to various 
living folk music (more on this below). 

Free improvisation involves pushing music language (rhythm, melody, tempered 
scale, chords, etc) beyond its limits, into the realm of the unknowable, a realm that we 
might associate with the spiritual or with magic or the supernatural. Parker's sound 
stream here represents the formless, boundless, fluid qualities that are the essence of this 
beyond which exceeds rational knowledge or systematization. To reach such a space 
involves an intense experience which corrodes the individual subject, a source of ecstasy 
which might manifest itself as extreme joy or cries of anguish. Free improvisation is a 
music of incessant metamorphosis, an interaction between individuals in a space 
belonging to none of them (nor to the audience). In a materialistic city in which values 
reside solely in dollars, Parker has worked to create a musical culture that is not based on 
solely on sales or, as so much New York "high" culture, on snobbery and pretence, but 
one based on this meeting place beyond the knowable. Finally, Parker's version of free 
improvisation is not a "high" musical culture operating in an autonomous realm of pure 
aesthetics, nor a "pop" musical culture operating in the image-world exemplified by 
MTV, but, in its transcendent quest, it is music that connects to so many other things in 
the world. 



"Music has always been 'out of need things arise, ' means no one will give you a gig, so you'll learn to rent 
a church or a space. You have no money to fix your bass so you'll learn how to fix it yourself. You learn 
how to make things because you can't afford to buy them. You learn how to do things because it's 
survival." (" Everything is Valid " interview with William Parker by Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz, March 

New York's loft jazz scene shared certain tactical approaches with other 
downtown artforms in the 1970s. On a basic level, in the absence of institutional, that is 
either commercial or government support for culture, a culture developed whereby artists 
produced, distributed and managed their own art. By creating alternative performance 
spaces in lofts, churches or storefronts, jazz musicians were doing what artists were also 
doing in New York at the time. The most famous loft space of the era was Sam Rivers' 
Studio Rivbea, a space immortalized in the Wild/lowers recordings (released in 1976 as 5 
LPs, subsequently released as 3 CDs or as a single CD of highlights). In interviews, New 
York musicians tell the same story over and over again: the relative absence of 
government support for culture in the United States compared to Europe, which has two 
effects: a continual stream of musicians touring subsidized venues and festivals in 
Europe, and musicians at home having to be creative in the performance, promotion and 
distribution of their work. 

On the positive side, the importance of the loft jazz scene lay not just as a means 
of taking control of the production and distribution of music, but the spaces also 
functioned as centers of community, bringing together musicians, artists, dancers, writers 
as well as an audience (in fact, the audience may have been mostly comprised of other 
artists). Again, the parallel development in downtown art of the 1970s resulted in site 
specific installations in alternative spaces such as lofts, storefronts and basements, which 
usually involved process-oriented, spontaneous and often collaborative artworks. For 
both artists and musicians, this downtown culture was an alternative to the uptown 
commercial culture of museums and commercial galleries for artists, and for musicians, 
midtown clubs and increasingly commercial jazz festivals. As well as subverting 
traditional musical and artistic forms, downtown culture was thus also politically 

William Parker, in a 2001 interview, mentioned the impact of Elijah 
Muhammad's ideals of black self-determination through economic power and self- 
motivation on his musical career: "You had to tell yourself that you were worth 
something because in the school systems you were not told you were worth anything. 
You really had to depend a lot on yourself and your historic figures to give you 
inspiration: your musicians, your writers, your poets, who at that time were heavy into 
Black Nationalism." ( interview with William Parker on 50 Miles of Elbowroom, by 
Adam Lore, 2001) No surprise then, when Parker named one of his key quartets, "In 
Order to Survive". Survival as an artist in New York, particularly an African- American 
jazz musician, depended on self- motivation and self-determination. 

A logical outcome of this tactic is the ongoing Vision Festival. Though started by 
Parker's wife, Patricia Nicholson Parker, it is a forum for many of the musicians 
associated with William Parker. An annual festival that began in 1996, the Vision 
Festival grew out of earlier festivals such as the Sound Unity festivals of the late 1980s - 
and the same basic principles of self-motivation and self-determination still apply. 

Twelve years after its beginnings, the Vision Festival today remains fiercely independent 
of corporate interests or sponsorship (unlike, for example, the JVC Jazz Festival which 
also takes place in New York in June). Vision is unique for its inclusive aesthetic - 
dance, painting and photography work in tandem with music - perhaps an extension of 
the inclusive aesthetic of the 1970s loft scene. Unlike so many contemporary festivals, 
you get the distinct idea that Vision not all about making as much money as possible but 
that it really is about both the music and the community rather than about ticket sales, 
merchandise sales or overpriced food and drink. Finally, Parker and Parker's recent 
" Blueprint for a Cultural Revolution " (Sept 1, 2007, see the Blog section), though vague 
on practical details, is certainly an overtly political call for government involvement in 
New York's cultural life (though their line about New York as "the world's center for 
culture" is unfortunate). But with a recently re-elected billionaire mayor whose interests 
extend only as far as Wall Street and real estate development, I applaud their efforts but 
don't like their chances. 

Musical Space and Time 

"All improvisers are composers." 
William Parker, Who Owns Music? ', p.67 

From his beginnings in New York's free jazz scene to working with European 
improvisers such as the late English guitarist Derek Bailey or regular gigs and recordings 
with German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann (such as with his Die Like a Dog Quartet), 
Parker has experience in a wide range of improvised music that has led him to develop a 
particular musical theory based on what he terms the "sound stream". In the sound 
stream, Parker argues, there is no distinction between composition and improvisation, nor 
between musical styles. Here, the common-sense distinction between classical music 
(based on composition) and jazz (based on improvisation) is lost. In his book, 
Improvisation (DaCapo Press, New York, 1993), Derek Bailey argued similarly that 
improvised music was widespread in various global musical traditions (Indian, Islamic, 
Flamenco), including European classical music - his portrait of Baroque music as 
inclusive of improvisation flies in the face of accepted ideals of what classical music is. 

Parker has been mining the sound stream while jazz became increasingly 
institutionalized and conservative, exemplified by Winton Marsalis' rise to popularity in 
the 1980s, replaying 1950s bop, only now it was codified and palatable to an uptown 
(read also white, conservative) audience. Thus the label "jazz" seems to be one that many 
improvising musicians are a little uncomfortable with today. Not that Parker (and many 
others) don't compose as well as improvise. At its heart though, the concept of 
improvised music involves an interplay between control and flow rather than 
improvisation and composition - something like surfing a wave, or, in Parker's terms, 
surfing the sound stream. 

In a version of Heraclitus' famous dictum, "you can't step in the same river 
twice", Parker proposes a musical theory whereby you can't play the same note twice, 
precisely because the context has changed each time you play (see his recent book, Who 
Owns Music? for numerous elaborations of this idea). Finally, Parker argues for the 
importance of the audience as an essential element in any improvised performance: 
"Improvisation's responsiveness to its environment puts the performance in a position to 
be directly influenced by the audience." {Who Owns Music?, p. 44) This idea, coupled 


with the impossibility of playing the same note twice, means that recordings must be a 
poor substitute for a live performance in which the musicians interact with the audience. 
The audience is thus not an anonymous homogenous mass (as suggested by a recording), 
but a changing quality that effects the equation of the live performance. Which takes us 
back to the points above about politics and community - at the heart of the musical 
experience is the live performance and interaction between musicians and audience. 

Folk Music: Inventing Community 

"... every music that I've heard has been an inspiration to me. Everything from Ellington to the Benanzuli 
Pygmies, call-and-response, the gospel church, rhythm and blues, blues itself, Tibetan music, music from 
China, music from Japan. And when I say influenced, I don't mean 'we're going to strive for a Tibetan 
sound today', but I mean influences inspire you to seek sound." (" Mayor of the Lower East Side ": 
interview with William Parker by Brian Carpenter, Free Association, WZBC 90.3 FM, Boston College 
Radio, aired Jan 21, 2002) 

The final aspect of Parker's music I wanted to briefly address is "world or folk 
music". Although best known as a bass player, Parker often plays a variety of unusual 
instruments (at least in a jazz or European classical tradition), exploring various folk 
music of the world. The best examples of this are the recent collaborations with drummer 
Hamid Drake {Piercing the Veil, 2001, and Spring Snow, 2007). On these albums, Parker 
plays a wide variety of musical instruments from around the world, including: the 
shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), the balafon (West African marimba), the bombarde 
(French reed instrument) and the dumbek (Arabic drum). Drake, meanwhile, plays the 
tabla (an Indian drum) and the frame drum. At times they evoke the repetitions and 
drones of trance music - that on the one hand might be traced back in a local context to 
late Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane or Don Cherry, but on the other, a myriad 
of folk music traditions that also utilize improvisation. This is in contrast to the generally 
condescending and patronizing Eurocentric attitude to folk music, often defined as 
primitive or less sophisticated than the European classical tradition (though sometimes 
useful for appropriating in the case of say, Bartok's music). While the characterization of 
New York as a global cultural "melting pot" is one Fm highly suspicious of (see my 
Elsewhere post), Parker does seem to draw upon a wide array of musical traditions with 
conviction and respect. His most recent Vision Festival premier in June 2007, "Double 
Sunrise Over Neptune", featured an eclectic instrumentation - trumpet, saxes, violins, 
viola, cello, oud, bass, drums, the voice of Indian singer Sangeeta Banerjee and Parker 
himself on a variety of reed instruments. 

Perhaps the more important issue of folk music is that of communication with the 
"folk" - above all, folk music suggests a relationship to a community different to the 
aloofness of the concert hall or the commodified abstraction of popular music. In the case 
of Parker's audience in New York, who exactly are the folk? While it's difficult to pin 
down a particular socio-economic audience for this type of music, Parker himself 
reflected in an interview on the loss of the African- American audience for improvised 
music in New York: "People question why there's no black audience for this music - we 
lost the support of the community. We drained the music out of the community. We lost 
contact with them. . . you needed a club in the community, where every night there's a 
concert, 52 weeks out of the year, for 10-20 years, establish it, then you have an 
audience. But we took the music out of the community and it drained down to the Lower 
East Side." (Interview with William Parker on 50 Miles of Elbowroom, by Adam Lore, 


2001) Thus the polarization of music in New York I've been referring too above is not 
just along an uptown-downtown white audience distinction, but needs to be extended 
geographically further uptown to Harlem and the Bronx. Jazz and improvised music from 
the 1970s to the present has largely lost African- American communities to hip hop and 
pop music. Despite this, the music has formed what seems to be a loyal and eclectic 
downtown audience. 

In my characterization of the New York downtown music scene here, I've tried to 
tread a line that argues that this music is neither pop music (exemplified by the 
commodified image-world of MTV) nor "Art" with a capital A that you might find 
uptown at the Lincoln Center (a fossilized European classical music and opera tradition 
that now includes the static "classical" version of jazz). Instead, this is music linked to a 
community, and to a process of living. In his book, Noise: The Political Economy of 
Music, Jacques Attali offers this perspective: "... the world is not for beholding. It is for 
hearing. It is not legible, but audible ... Nothing essential happens in the absence of 
noise." (University of Minnesota Press, 1985, p. 3) Attali suggests that noise is a source of 
power equivalent to the written word or the articulation of space. Capitalism seeks to 
channel noise into saleable commodities, at the same time filtering out noise that is not 
the constant repetition of the same (the classical canon, be it of European music or jazz, 
or MTV). While downtown music is certainly integrated into a capitalist economy, it 
does offer a small pocket of resistance to the wholesale commodification of music, while 
also opening up both musical spaces for further creative exploration and the possibility of 
new communities. 

Photos by DJ Huppatz: William Parker at Vision Festival XII, New York, June 2007 
and with Howl! at the East Village Festival, September 2007. 


1 . William Parker' s website ( http://www. williamparker. net ) 

2. Impressively comprehensive William Parker sessionography by Rick Lopez 

3. "Everything is Valid": interview with William Parker by Eyal Hareuveni, All 
About Jazz, March 2005 ( article.php?id= 16709) 

4. "Mayor of the Lower East Side": interview with William Parker by Brian 
Carpenter, Free Association, WZBC 90.3 FM, Boston College Radio, aired Jan 
21, 2002 ( 

5. Interview with William Parker on 50 Miles of Elbowroom, by Adam Lore, 2001 
(http://www. 50milesofelbowroom. com/articles/wparkerinterview. html) 

6. Kyle Gann, " Breaking the Chain Letter: An Essay on Downtown Music " (1998) 
( http://www. kylegann. com/downtown, html) 

7. Downtown Music Gallery : the #1 source for buying downtown music 
(http.V/downtownmusicgallery. com/Main/index. htm) 



By Anthony Whiteford 

In August 2007 Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton played a series of concerts in the 
Italian cities of Bologna, Modena, and Reggio Emilia. Anthony Whiteford made the 
journey to see them play, and, in the process of doing so, went on something of a 
personal odyssey, in which he was led to reflect on what their music meant to him 
before, and means to him now. 



(Wednesday 10 th October - Foyer Rossini del Teatro Comunale di Bologna) 

A number of Italian critics participated in a discussion of Taylor's music, presided over by Giordano 
Montecchi. The critics were: Franco Fayenz, Marcello Lorrai, Francesco Martinelli, Franco Minganti, and 
Giorgio Rimondi. 

There is a grand piano in the room and sitting in front of it are four middle-aged 
men, one of whom is talking into a microphone placed on one of the tables at which 
they're sitting. There's a big poster board beside them saying something about Cecil 
Taylor, Anthony Braxton so I'm reasonably assured I'm in the right room. It is 5.20 and 
this gig was scheduled to start at five. Five hours ago I was drinking a coffee beside the 
leaning tower of pisa, prior to realising I'd got the time of this gig wrong and began my 
frantic, anxious journey across Italy, taking in the duomo in Florence during a 30minute 
gap between trains and paying for a taxi from Bologna station to the Teatro Communale 
for a date with Cecil Taylor, which I'm a bit vague about. I think I'm gonna get CT doing 
his vocal sound/poetry and dancing thing. But now I'm sitting here with the minutes 
slipping by and these Italian guys are passing the mic along the table and each one is 
delivering lengthy monologues with words like 'shaman shamanic count basie jazz' 
helping me to continue to believe I'm in the right room whilst becoming increasingly 
concerned that this event wasn't gonna feature CT at all. At one point after a proliferation 


of worried glances and nods a guy in the wings left and returned with a cd deck and we 
got to hear Ct delivering some mumbled jumbled stream of words very badly recorded. 

And then, finally, unbelievably, at 6.20 Ct walks through the door at the back of 
the room and shuffles past the grand piano without giving it so much as a glance and 
without issuing a single word of apology, he sits down and gets some odd scraps of paper 
out of a cardboard folder, whilst one of the academics introduces him. He then proceeds 
to read from one of the pieces of paper having shuffled through them looking unconfident 
and bewildered. The guys keep fiddling with the mic, which CT seems oblivious of and 
he reads, haltingly, hesitantly and very badly. He stumbles over words and abandons 
them halfway through, then reads them again accentuating the elongated interrupted 
sounds of his original misreading, as if following that old improviser's maxim, 'if you 
make a mistake, repeat it like you meant to do it.' He pauses halfway through sentences 
at seemingly random points and he's moved off mic seemingly regardless. Words were 
lost, then whole sentences would boom out as he came back on mic. Much of what he 
read seemed to be culled wholesale from the warning leaflets that are issued with anti- 
psychotic drugs, with whole passages describing the side effects of various drugs. And 
then he'd cut to passages that seemed to be culled from psychiatry text books. Even when 
he switched to a new piece of paper, the material remained the same. 

When he'd entered the room I'd been angry at him for being so late and appearing 
to have no concern for us, or our lives or experiences. But I also saw this very frail, 
dishevelled little old man, whose hair and physical substance seemed to be wasting away. 
And now as he lumbered through this incoherent list of words I again feel some 
compassion for him and wonder if this is his attempt to 'come out' as mentally ill. I'm 
also feeling very attached to my adoration of CT, his music, and the way he's lived out 
and embodiment of what I always believed the artist should be; militant, unconcerned 
with public opinion, uncompromising, abrasive, aloof, concerned only with his art and 
fuck everything else. And I want to hold onto this veneration. 

CT continues to deliver his rambling words and at one point there are one or two 
other themes introduced; something like, time and space or sonic soundwaves and 
eternity. As he speaks he picks up on one or two words like 'existence' and does word 
play with them. All these exercises don't seem to be thought out or worked through and 
as I consider my journey from Bristol at 4 am and think of how long we've been sitting 
here in this room I feel more and more disrespected and shat upon. He's so clearly 
putting nothing into this presentation. At one point one of the Italian guys asks him a very 
long and involved question about CT's music, sound and shamanism, which CT basically 
ignores telling us instead all his old stories; how 'mother' made him read Schopenhauer 
and practise piano six days a week. 'On Sundays I was free to do as I wished.' He talks 
about his father too and then tells a lot of stories about hearing various artists such as 
Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lena Home and Art Blakey. He often remarks that the men 
were 'not nice to know at all' and seems to find this detrimental to their character. At one 
point he talks about hearing Billie Holiday for the first time and how it changed his life, 
how he couldn't believe the beauty he was witnessing. And tears come to my eyes as 
think 'yeah that happened to me, when I heard your goddam music. You saved me. You 
let me know there was someone on this planet who seemed to have stuff inside him akin 


to what I was feeling inside me and you showed me it can be transformed into the most 
astonishing beauty. And I don't understand what you and I are doing here in this room 
now, cos this is not it ! ' 

And I feel this great sadness as I fear that CT is slipping away into dementia or 
something, or I fear that my story of CT is my own fiction. And I think 'CT means the 
world to you, but he doesn't give a shit about you or your love for him. ' 

The stories he's telling go on and on. They're not great stories, they're old and 
I've heard them before, and he's not the greatest of story tellers. I keep looking at the 
piano and thinking it's mad that he's sitting here doing this, whilst the piano is sitting 
there idle. 

Anyway he keeps going for about an hour and a quarter so it's now 7.30 and 
gone. Excuse me Mr Taylor but has it occurred to you we've now been in this room for 2 
and a half hours? He finally rounds it all off with a story about how he used to be so 
angry and wasted his life thinking he didn't need anyone, but he's recently learned that to 
love and to be loved is vital and he's sorry it's taken him this long to realise. And I'm 
touched. I feel glad and I feel sad for him, but I feel no love or connection between CT 
and us in the room and I feel scared that something I've held onto as precious for so long 
is being lost here. 

Finally we escape, it ends, with some kind of further shuffling about and I've now 
gotta find my way to the hostel on the edge of town. I clutch my bags tight through the 
streets full of drinking beggars with their dogs. I finally find a bus stop that I think might 
get me to the hostel and I spot 2 Japanese tourists looking dangerously naive, 
brandishing, cameras, and baggage and waving their mobile phones about whilst 3 or 4 
street urchins in hoodies move in on them. I stride between the hoodies and the tourists. 
I'm taller than any of them and as the tourists finally see the threat closing in on them and 
start to put away their mobile phones and walk down the street fast, I stay alongside 
them, making slightly insane throat sounds till the chancers looking ever more 
concernedly at me, slip away across the busy road. 

Goddammit, here I am in the evil city for day one of the Cecil Taylor four day gig. All I 
gotta go do now is find the friggin' hostel and sleep and get my head back together. 



(Thursday 11 th October - Teatro Comunale di Modena) 

I didn 't make extensive notes at the time so this is an impressionistic picture 
drawn from memory. Of all four gigs in the series this was the most straightforward and 
'successful. ' I did write some notes the following day which I'll include here- 

Ct and Oxley man what an odd couple they are. I think maybe they're re too good 
together. Oxley is such a total complement, he maybe, takes the edge off the music. Mind 
you what's lost in the lack of tension is replaced by the total sound mesh of the music. I 
think that Oxley sits in behind ct almost exclusively and it would be easy to assume that 
he's providing the backing rhythm whilst ct sets about his usual rushing cascading 
thumping music, but I think Oxley is actually providing the most perfect perpetual 


influence on ct in that it's very alive polytythmic energetic driving drumming. It's a bed 
of living intricate rythms and sounds and it's totally alert to any twists and turns ct may 

The gig begins with ct doing his word thing again. A lot of it's the same words as 
yesterday. But tonight, he sticks exclusively to the poems and with the added theatrical 
dimension of him standing and moving about stage I find myself less preoccupied with 
the quality of the material. And I'm comforted [and frustrated] by the sight of the piano 
and drums all set up and ready to go [hopefully]. I also continue to hope that this section 
wont go on too long as every minute away from the piano seems such a waste of time. On 
top of this there's the added dread that the vocal slot might be followed by a goddam pro- 
forma Oxley drum solo, but mercifully this don't happen. Ct stays on stage following his 
solo slot and Oxley comes wandering out and sits at his kit, whilst ct gets onto the piano 
at last. And ct's got his bits of paper with some kind of music or summat written on them, 
which seems to be the norm these days. I'm not sure he used to ever use any kind of pre- 
planned written notes. He's also taken to opening with some very light and almost pretty 
melodic statements, that are even maybe tender? And this is where he starts tonight. And 
Oxley' s in there with him tapping away as is his wont. This is where they fit very well, 
these two, their improvisations are very much chips from the block of their body of work. 
You can't often say, ah yes this one was like that and that one was like this. And tonight 
in modena, in this exceedingly lavish opera house full of red velvet and gold leaf, they 
soon get warmed up and tuck into that thing they do. 

It stays rather light and almost pretty. Ct doesn't go straight into his heavy heavy 
clusters and runs; he's doing all these delicate little figures with lovely little twists at the 
end. Oxley for his part, don't respond to ct in a pointillist moment by moment way, he 
does his thing, but he is right in there with ct and he'll turn on a sixpence if ct moves in 
certain directions. They're weaving this very tight knit mesh of sound. And ct seems 
happy and relaxed, like he has every faith that Oxley is gonna stay with him, but 
confident too that Oxley is behind him, or at the most alongside him and never ahead of 
him driving him on. 

Yet there's something about the relentless ever-shifting polyrhythmic layers that 
Oxley provides that is driving, or at least cushioning ct all along the way. I imagine 
there's some kind of chemistry at play here, cos I don't think Oxley is gonna be phased 
by ct, but on the other hand I think Oxley isn't into the world of egos and those kind of 
clashes, so he doesn't clash with ct but he also doesn't annoy him by being intimidated 
either. Oxley often takes long admiring looks at ct and smiles broadly and warmly. I 
don't spot ct respond visually to any of this, but he's roaming around the piano, full of a 
certain energy and drive that is about dynamics within the music and not about anger or 
other emotions. 

At some point during the gig ct gets into that crashing rumbling thumping thing 
he does and this seems to be prompted by the ongoing build up of musical energy Oxley 

is creating with him. But, but but something is missing from ct's music now, for 

me anyway. And I find my attention drifting in a way that I'd not expect with ct's music. 
Even on disc, I find myself riveted to ct's music mostly, specially [and I'm loathe to say 


this] the old stuff that seems so emotionally charged and intense. So here in the opera 
house, I'm not on the edge of my seat by any means, and my attention even wanders, so 
there are whole periods of time when I'm elsewhere in my mind and then I remind myself 
to come back and listen. 

They play for about 45mins I think. And then ct stands up abruptly, as he does, 
and walks off, with Oxley, following on his heels resembling somewhat an obedient 
hound dog. 

The audience explodes, in a way the music didn't, and they keep on clapping and 
whistling determined to wring an encore out of the musicians, all of us I guess, very keen 
to get more than this before we leave. I'm thinking we may as well keep trying though I 
know we're totally dependent on ct's mood and all the roaring from the stalls wont sway 
this. Then a guy wanders on stage and says we can keep on clapping if we like, but this is 
actually only the interval. 

It occurs to me somewhere within the four days of ct gigs that, whereas ct's music 
has become terribly predictable for many years now, [for most of his career, some would 
say] what is utterly variable is the presentation. Tonight he's gonna do 2 sets, and deliver 
a standard show it seems. Or maybe he'll come back on and torment us with some more 
poetry, or maybe he'll just send Oxley on to do a solo, or maybe they'll just do 5 minutes 
of some nice ellingtonian tinkling [more and more of which I seem to be hearing in the 
music these days???] and ct will get up and leave. 

They take a long interval, at least half an hour I think and come back and play a 
full on forty five minutes or so of a second set in the same mode as the first. There are 
some natural stops and starts where ct seems to take up a new refrain or theme, having 
rustled through the bits of paper on the piano music stand and then they cook away with 
their individual rhythmic tapestry. Again my attention wanders some times. Oxley uses 
his electronic device which echoes back what they're doing on some kind of delay. And 
again he looks so happy with ct and with the music. I think what's happened here, is that 
ct has become a European improviser. I think this began in the late eighties when he 
found all these European improvisers who could meet him musically and even 
technically, they could hear him and they cold follow him. But they didn't necessarily 
share his story, his social raison d'etre, or his anger, but they utterly understood the music 
and it presented no problem to them whatsoever. And I imagine this must have been so so 
nice for ct to come home to. But now I wonder, if he's lost summat by stepping out of the 
American jazz fold so utterly. But on the other hand, for chrissakes, he's found some 
peace here I guess, and a man can't stay in pain all his life, least of all to satisfy the 
spectators of the atrocity exhibition [one of whom might be if I'm not careful] 

I wander the pleasant streets of modena back to my hostel and I reflect back on 
the pleasantly sophisticated music I've been with this evening. Modena is a quiet town so 
1 1 at night feels late and there's a pleasant and safe, sleepy feel to the streets, which I'm 
very much enjoying after the brutal urban landscape of bologna. When I return to the 
hostel a very drunk young guy comes out of the lift and says something to me in a 
language I don't understand. I tell him I don't comprehend. And he looks at me and 


thinks, 'no, of course you don't, it's obvious just looking at you.' And he seems to accept 
this situation as a natural reality. I think to myself 'jeez don't let that be my room mate.' 
And it turns out he is my room mate. He's up all night, with his light on and he comes 
and goes. At some point he's rapping with our other room mate. I cannot imagine what 
he's finding out there in modena to fuel his excursions out. I'm glad of my earplugs and 
my eye mask. At about seven I pull my mask up and see his light's still on and he's not in 
bed. This morning I'm not getting up till 10 and then I've got nowhere to be and nothing 
to do all day; an idea that fills me with bliss. We are all getting older. 



Joined by [unadvertised] WILLIAM PARKER 

(Friday 12 th October - Teatro Communale di Bologna) 

The first thing I spot, like a blot on the landscape, is william parker's bass on 
stage, between the piano and the saxophone mics. Cecil Taylor, presumably due to some 
psychological complexity around playing with Braxton has changed the line up. So I'm 
not gonna get the duo I've been dreaming about for months. 

I take my seat, right at the very front looking way up to the spot where Braxton 
and Cecil Taylor are gonna be. 

I can't remember how the gig starts. There must have been a short poetry/word 
slot by ct. I think he announced they'd each be doing a solo. William Parker did his 
somewhat undistinguished bass solo routine and then Braxton came on with his alto and 
took his position at the mic ct had used earlier. Braxton played a fairly distinct, melodic 
phrase then embroidered and deconstructed it. At some point he started singing a melody 
that went up quite high whilst also playing the alto, creating a very intense mood like he 
was trying to squeeze as much of himself down the horn as possible. This solo piece 
seemed to stop and start and I possibly had 3 distinctive parts to it. There was a mixture 
of this high intensity with vocals down the horn, mixed with an oddly melodic, quite 
jazzy thing down fairly low on the horn. And then he was gone. 
Ct did a solo, I cant remember it nor where it was placed in this first set. 

After the interval they return and ct's over with ab talking into ab's ear. It looks to 
me like ct is issuing fairly explicit instructions whilst ab appears keen to show that he's 
paying attention. My fantasy is that ab just wants ct to be gone back to his piano so they 
can get away from this verbal interaction and get into the music. 

When they finally start up the music it feels like ct is leading. It's certainly his music as 
opposed to Braxton's and I recall overhearing some associates of Oxl ey sitting behind me 
at the london gig, joking about how ct had said he would not be playing any of braxton's 
goddam charts. And here in bologna, the same as in london, it sound like ct is refusing to 
meet ab in the music. Whenever ab starts to warm up and take off ct cools right off, or 
even abruptly stops. If ab picks up on something ct is doing, ct changes it. Ct pointedly 
smiles and nods at certain things parker plays, as if he's one of those horrid 
schoolteachers who lets the kids know how shit they are by praising the chosen pet 
student whilst they look on excluded. 


Braxton, meanwhile seem at all comfortable, he's doing his jazzy sort of thing 
like on his 'standards' work. He's following ct and I imagine he's trying to be good to 
placate ct. And although ct looks so delighted with parker's playing, I'm deeply 
unmoved. He seems to be doing what he does. I can imagine him doing this stuff in his 

I'm feeling frustrated. I've been checking ab's ghost trance music of late and what 

I'm getting here feels what. . . .unsurprising? stale? dated? All of these I guess, but the 

main problem for me is I feel I'm not getting goddam Braxton. And then ab reaches 
down for his sopranino and there's a glorious moment [a very short moment] where ab 
brings something startling to the music, doing his staccato sharp blaps of sound, cutting 
into the music. But after the very first distinctive squawk ct stands up, collects his sheet 
music and leaves the stage. Braxton has his eyes closed and for a bit longer he plays with 
Parker still with these brilliant chirps of sound, until Parker notices that ct has gone and 
he promptly puts down his bass and walks off, leaving ab up there with his eyes closed, 
oblivious to the fact that his fellow musicians have abandoned him in mid flight, poised 
with his sopranino mouthpiece in his mouth, alone on stage with in front of thousands of 
dumbstruck people. Eventually he opens his eyes and registers, with a look of shock 
firing across his face, that the others are gone, shrugs his shoulders, puts his horn down 
and walks off stage. 

The audience remain still and silent for a while and then we erupt into slow 
handclaps, whistles and jeering and we keep this up for a long while. Some people even 
take to banging on the woodwork at the front of the stage or up in the circles and we keep 
going for a good ten minutes. The lights go up and unformed guards [police?] line the 
inside of the stalls looking menacing. For a while I hold onto some hope that Braxton will 
re-emerge and treat us to some more solo music, which I'm thinking, I'd find preferable 
to the trio. Or maybe Parker and Braxton will play. I entertain no notion of ct returning. I 
also start to feel sick of ct's behaviour and that I really don't wanna see him again. 
Gradually, though I continue to protest, I become more and more resigned to the belief 
that no one's coming back; that's it, after all this journeying, the second and last Bologna 
gig is over with. And I'm sickeningly aware that tomorrow's quartet gig maybe won't 
happen. Which will mean I've come all this way for a couple of 15 minute solos this 
evening, an excruciating audience with ct, raconteur and an evening of Taylor and Oxl ey 


duo, the only gig that simply started on time, delivered 2 sets and closed according to 

Out in the foyer I find one of the promoters dosing himself liberally with rescue 
remedy. I ask if tomorrow's gig will go ahead. 'Yes the gig will go ahead, believe me.' I 
express my doubt, but he insists, 'It will go ahead, it has to.' He says 'today has been 
very difficult. Every 2 hours he changes and says "no, the gig will not go ahead." Then 2 
hours later "it will go ahead." All day like this right up to the start of concert.' We talk a 
bit more. I say I'm worried about ct, he seems unwell, unbalanced. The guy seems to 
concur, he says 'he's always been difficult but now he is impossible.' 

I leave feeling angry and sad and bewildered. I'm angry at the effort I've 
expended getting to this gig only to be short-changed. I'm sad at the obvious turmoil that 
ct seems to be living within. And I'm bewildered because a lifetime of admiration for a 
man whose music has saved my life and my sanity is now wilting, bringing with it 
fundamental conflicts about what I demand of 'the artist' seeming to conflict with my 
demand for 'customer satisfaction.' 

And now I gotta get past all the drunks and beggars with their vicious looking 
dogs and get on the bus to the horrible hostel on the edge of town. 



(Saturday 13 th October - Reggio Emilia, Italy) 

(i) I have listened once more to the recording of the quartet gig. I was not 
completely captivated by it. I have to say I've reached the conclusion that this coupling of 
ct and ab doesn't work. Ct is too set in his modus operandi to allow ab's music to 
influence what he does and ab is too willing to mould himself to the demands of ct and 
therefore doesn't bring the element of himself that might have made the project 
interesting. The sparse and angular interjections that ab brought to the music very briefly 
during the trio gig were not present at all in this quartet gig. My guess is that ct insisted 
that ab take solos or sit out, which would describe what he did during the quartet gig. 
The Quartet. Live in Reggio Emilia. 

(ii) I've listened to it yet again. I don't know how to approach this music 
anymore. Too much has gone on between me and ct this week. I realise now, as well, that 
I've become very immersed in ab's ghost trance music and I find it more satisfying than 
most other music there is. So I'm dissatisfied with this music cos I wanted ab to meld 
some of his gtm sensibilities into the mix. But he can't cos if he tries ct will walk off. So 
I've tried to approach it like it's a ct quartet with ab on saxophone, which is what it is 
actually. And ab doesn't play the best saxophone I've ever heard play with ct, cos clearly 
ct ain't letting him do his thing. 

So he plays like a jazz saxophonist, he puts in a handful of blistering solos over a 
period of 40minutes of full on free jazz in ct style. But it don't work cos ab's so cramped 
and it looks like it's impossible for ab to get too close to ct musically cos every time he 
gets close to harmonising with ct, then ct moves off away from him. And also the ct 
parker oxley unit is very tight. Oxley and Parker are sticking very tight to ct throughout, 
like those kids in the playground who stick close to the bully so they don't get mashed. 
And ab sounds out on a limb, trying too hard. 


Now it occurs to me, how come this gig don't work, cos with ct's music the unit's 
supposed to be tight and meshed. Even though the horn players generally take what can 
pretty much be described as solos ct and the drums or bass are always in there tightly 
meshed. But here in Reggio there is no mesh. So the most satisfying and successful 
stretches are those brief moments when it's trio playing and ab is laying out, which by the 
end of the gig he's doing a lot of. For about the last ten minutes of the main 33 minute set 
he stands there with his eyes shut and his saxophone clutched tight to his chest, like he so 
often does in his music and to me he always looks like he's following the music so 
intently and he's got his antennae out for what's coming next from his horn, but at 
Reggio Opera House, he keeps holding the horn close to his chest and his eyes tight 
closed and I'm imagining he's waiting for this all to be over and done with. 

When the quartet come back on for an encore he does a little melodic, lyrical solo 
and then, again stands, silent holding onto his saxophone till it ends. 

There we are, that's all I can do. Ct played like ct always does, as did Parker, 
whose bass playing at these kind of free jazz gigs seems pedestrian to me these days, if 
not perfunctory and bored. Oxley did his thing too. He was loud I thought and he stuck 
close to ct and provided some of the most dynamic aspects of the music with his constant 
clanging and banging. 

That's all I can say about this now. I've not listened to any ct music since I got 
home. I'm afraid of what I'll feel if I do. Last year I went out and bought up loads of old 
ct stuff, that I'd lost along the years and I thrilled to it all over again, and thought to 
myself how lucky those of my generation were to have lived through times such as the 
AACM and One Too Many Salty Swift and Ornette Coleman and harmolodics and all 
that last half of the 20 th century heroic journey stuff. And now I guess I gotta move on 
and for that I have Anthony Braxton's music, still relevant, still moving and thrilling us 
all and distilled into music that exists as sound and is relevant and powerful as sound, 
even though the social moment/movement that fed us through 68/69 and into the 70s is 
no longer with us as it was, and seems to exist not at all in the music. There is still 
Braxton continuing his heroic journey, so maybe it's worth sticking around. 

I don't guess he'll be playing with Cecil Taylor again in a while. And I don't 
know what me and Cecil are gonna do from here on in either. I wonder if he isn't lost. Or 
maybe it's just that I've just lost him? 

(iii) Today I re-listened to the first half of this concert again; ct and oxley in duet, 
ct doing his poetry/word thing again, made more tolerable by having the rhythmic 
backing and accenting of oxley' s drumming, but still badly delivered and the same 
material as the last 2 gigs. This if followed by William Parker walking onto stage playing 
shakuhachai followed by a de rigeur bass solo that I cannot describe in any detail. 

Then on comes braxton. He plays very sweet sopranino, then breaks off to whistle 
and hum the melody. He also recites letters and numbers in the same rhythm/melody then 
breaks into a very high and shrill melody played with such intensity that it keeps 


threatening to split on him. At times the playing is highly melodic and emotive, reminds 
me of Joseph Jarman way back when he did his lovely old solo stuff. Maybe the 
experience of playing with ct has caused ab to return in his mind to those halcyon days of 
comradeship, unity and solidarity that he shared with the aacm. Then he breaks off and 
sings numbers in a soft voice. He follows this back on sopranino with some very fast high 
flighty playing with lots of accompanying growling, stops for some more humming then 
picks up the alto and begins popping the pads before returning to the high screaling 
sounds accompanied by growls. Then he goes down to the lower register and plays a 
melody reminiscent of his Bologna solo yesterday. He finishes with growling and 
fluttering half-formed rhythmic statements and leaves the stage. 

Cecil Taylor takes a solo, which is extremely beautiful and slow paced, delicate 
and sweet. I take this to be a retort to Braxton's energetic and impassioned solo. And here 
I am again, back with ct remembering the immense elegiac beauty of the man's music. 
He holds us captivated, he weaves a web of filigree piano, taking simple motifs and 
stretching them out, perfectly executing his tender and minute runs. And he fills 15 
minutes with this concentrated beauty and I remember what it is between ct and me. The 
outraged anger is gone from the music, though the man himself is still prickly as hell 
obviously. And there's still beauty here. A unique voice still singing. 



By David Grundy 

For the first issue of this magazine, I thought I'd address a topical issue that's 
made something of a stir in the jazz world over recent years, although it seems to have 
gone largely unreported in the mainstream press (except as part of general discussions 
along the lines of 'downloading is killing/not killing music' (take your pick)). The subject 
is jazz 'sharity' blogs - websites which post information about, and digital downloads of, 
rare and out-of-print jazz albums. 

These blogs are run by fans from different countries, races and backgrounds, often 
under pseudonyms (which cynics would say was a way of ensuring that they can't be 
tracked down and sued by the record companies), and are often named after classic 
records (such as Cecil Taylor's 'It is In the Brewing Luminous', Terry Riley's 'A 
Rainbow in Curved Air', and Frank Wright's 'Church Number Nine' - the latter giving 
its name to one of the most comprehensive of the 'sharities', which sadly shut down a 
few months ago). There's been some quite fierce criticism - and I'd be the first to admit 
that sharing music for free over the internet is a dodgy area. But this is a slightly different 
case, and I'll explain why, at the same time as outlining my own views. 

If you ask me, the growth of the 'sharities' is one of the best things that's 
happened to the music in the past few years. Today's cultural climate is one which seems 
more hostile than ever to this sort of creative art: witness the recent closure of the Red 
Rose in London (although there is the occasional exception, such as William Parker's 
Vision Festival). Consequently, it seems more and more likely that jazz and improvised 
music will have to survive through the underground - through word-of-mouth and 
through a small coterie of dedicated fans. The internet, with the unlimited possibilities it 
provides for bringing together people from all over the world, who would otherwise 
never come into contact, provides a perfect channel for this to happen, and for the 
creation of a network dedicated to hearing these records and giving them a position of 
some sort of recognition and appreciation. 

While it will obviously differ in individual cases, I suspect that more artists than 
not will be grateful for the exposure - after all, a lot of these records are unlikely to get 
re-releases in the foreseeable future, and if someone gets turned onto a particular 
performer by hearing one of their old albums as a blog download, they may be tempted to 
go and check them out performing live, or buy their currently available albums, or to tell 
their friends and get them to do the same. 

I'm going to quote at length from a message posted on the discussion 
group, because I feel that it encapsulates some of the problems and frustrations resulting 
from the (un)availability of much important jazz music on CD - in this particular case, 

the work of saxophonist Marion Brown: 

"I am naturally somewhat dismayed at the unavailability of the Sweet Earth Flying, Afternoon for 
a Georgia Faun, and Geechee Recollections CDs. I know that free [jazz] music lore is littered with 
romanticism of out of print gems, but from what I gather, this music is not some obscure document... many 
people seem to feel that it's Mr. Brown's greatest work. Plus, the albums were released on Impulse and 
EGVL.not exactly fly-by-night indies who'd be forgiven for not keeping the music in print. If you do a 


Google on "sweet earth flying", you come up with 2 types of responses: ads for the His Name is Alive 
tribute CD (how sad is it that a TRIBUTE album is more readily available than the original works?) and 
about 100 different blogs wondering the same thing: why the hell can't I buy these albums, or even legal 
downloads? I understand the expense involved in manufacturing/re-releasing several CDs that might only 
sell a few hundred copies, but why not at least downloads? It seems absurd that I can't even PAY to listen 
to some of the greatest works of one of my favorite musicians, while the labels themselves lament the 
decline of music sales. ..What exactly are the issues that prevent out of print music from being released as 
downloads, or in the case of Marion Brown's CDs, being re-released entirely if there is enough demand?" 

It may be true that, for some people, whether consciously or not, half the thrill is 
in the chase, in hunting down objects (rare vinyl and out-of-print CDs), to which the 
music itself is almost subsidiary (in a similar way, some people collect antiquarian first 
editions of books that they are never likely to read). But I think the popularity of the 
blogs shows that there are a lot more people out there for whom the music is what is 
important: after all, who in their right mind would rather have a crappy digital download, 
which they then have to burn onto CD-R themselves, than a nice big LP in one of those 
vintage vinyl sleeves, or just a plain old commercially-available CD release with good- 
quality sound? Of course, people are more likely to listen to music if it's free to do so - 
it's human nature to want something for nothing - yet, if this is the only way that albums 
like Marion Brown's are going to be heard, I can seen no alternative. 

The ball is really in the record companies' collective courts: if the music was 
available in the first place, I doubt that nearly so many blogs would have sprung up 
making it available for download. Someone like Ekkerhard Jost, of FMP, may complain, 
and request that bloggers take down download links to out-of-print FMP albums, but, if 
he's not releasing them himself, who benefits? Of course, there's no way the musicians 
are going to get any money from people downloading their out-of-print work: but they're 
not going to get any more money from music that's not being heard at all, and at least, if 
someone stumbles across an obscure album, and likes it, they may be tempted to cough 
up cash in order to go and see concerts by the artist, as I pointed out above. Just keeping 
the music under wraps, and prohibiting/condemning these blogs does not advance matters 
one iota. 

Steve Coleman's an artist who's actually taken the initiative, and put his out-of- 
print albums up as MP3 downloads on the m-base website. His accompanying essay, 
given his reasons for doing so, is clearly heart-felt and puts in context some of the petty 
scrabbling for money that goes on in the music world, and, indeed, the world at large: 

"Since my main goal is the communication of. . .ideas to the people, then why not provide this 
music for free, and thereby facilitate [e] the distribution of this music to the people? However, the 
distribution of music in this way is not in the best interest of commercial music companies, i.e. record 
companies, music distributors, retail stores etc. 

My reasons for providing free music come from my belief that musical ideas should not be owned 
by anyone. I believe that ideas should be free for anyone to use (but not to necessarily sell to others or 
make others pay for the use of these ideas). The concept of a commons area where ideas can be used for 
the benefit of all but for the profit of no one may seem like an unrealizable concept in the world today. 
Basically greed runs the world today and it is because of this that the concept of ownership exits. 

[. . .] I believe that ideas should be an area that is common to all people. It has been proven that 
real progress is made when ideas are shared and developed collectively. The ancient Egyptian society is 
one example of this and the development of the Internet is an example in modern times. . . . 

Although it is not practical in the present society to have a situation where all ideas and 
information are available for the use of all, there should be areas where ideas and information are free for 
the use of everyone. This is especially true of creative ideas and inspired thought. 

There are some people who either cannot pay for the music or would never even listen to it in the 
first place if they had to pay for it. I envision a situation where maybe one third to one half of the music 


that I create and male e available to the public will be free of charge . . . .There should be some ideas and 
concepts that are available for all to use, to contribute to the advancement of all." 
(The full essay, titled 'Why do I give away some of my music?', can be found at http://www.m- away.html) 

We should be careful that this doesn't mean we rip off the artists - there are so 
many horror stories about great musicians who went through periods where they were 
ridiculously underappreciated, and often in poverty: Sonny Simmons and Charles Gayle 
both lived on the streets for a number of years, Joe Harriott died a virtual pauper, and so 
on. Yet Coleman provides a valuable corrective to the increasingly money- and hype- 
driven mainstream jazz world, where tickets for a one-hour set cost over £20 and, it 
seems, only those with the best publicists and the best looks (it helps if you can be 
marketed as a "sexy young jazz singer", especially if you're female) can actually break 
through to a wider audience. 

One final thing to note: it's not just out of print albums that are doing the rounds, 
but live performances too, which might not otherwise be released as commercial CDs, 
and just remain languishing in some archive, or in someone's cellar or attic. These are 
often from good quality radio broadcasts, and, while you could argue that they are only 
for the most dedicated fans, they can sometimes be invaluable documents of stuff not 
captured on record - such as Pharoah Sanders' live, where the ferocity and free jazz 
energy is greater than on the more famous albums he did for Impulse in the 60s and 70s. 


Following is a series of mini profiles of some of the best music blogs I've come 
across while trawling the internet, complete with details about some of the rare/unissued 
records that available for download from them. The albums are all out-of-print, but 
hopefully if they keep turning up and being downloaded some people will take note and 
re-issue them, as has happened with Noah Howard's 'The Black Ark.' 

The Brewing Luminous * * 
Curator - Summyth/ Field - 60s, 70s and 80s Free Jazz (albums/FM broadcasts/ 
soundboard recordings) 

Noah Howard - Space Dimension (1970) 

Monster session with Frank Wright (tenor sax), Bobby Few 
(piano), Art Taylor & Muhammad Ali (drums), including 
raucous covers of 'Viva Black' (a.k.a. 'Ole Negro', from 
Howards' 'The Black Ark') and Wright's 'Church Number 
Nine.' Some insanely catchy hooks, as well as extremely far- 
out collective improvisation: frenzied, grooving, free, essential 
- but only ever available on a hard-to-find America LP. 

Don Cherry and the Jazz Composers' Orchestra - Relativity Suite (1973) 

Carlos Ward, Frank Lowe, Dewey Redman, Leroy Jenkins, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, 
Ed Blackwell, and Paul Motian are just some of the performers here, tackling Don 
Cherry's compositions, which are for the most part accessible and exotic, with the leader 
employing all manner of flutes, percussion instruments, and vocal techniques. Highlights 


include Carla Bley's tart solo feature on 'Infinite Gentleness' and the loping riff and 
sweet violins on the second half of 'Tantra' -incredibly joyous and life-affirming. 

Pharoah Sanders - Live in Nice, July 18 1971 

Sanders and co. stretch out on 'The Creator Has a Master Plan' and his resplendent 
arrangement of the spiritual 'Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord.' While 'Creator' 
loses some of the colour and texture it had on the legendary studio version from 'Karma', 
the other piece presents a totally different experience to its studio counterpart; wilder and 
freer, it demonstrates the sort of frenzied, terrifying pyrotechnics that would all too soon 
become mere showpiece elements in Sanders' playing, rather than its very centre. 

Julius Hemphill - Dogon A.D. (1972)- Tim Berne, who counts Hemphill as a particular 
hero and a major inspiration for his own playing, tried to get this reissued through his 
own Screwgun record label, but, due to problems with getting the rights, had to opt for 
upping it as a free MP3 download instead. Though that was soon taken down, it's still 
floating around in cyberspace, as here. Generally characterised by a relaxed feel, with 
emphasis and groove and even R & B elements (plus the marvellous Abdul Wadud on 
cello), there's still plenty of room for more experimental playing as well. 

Happy as a Fat Rat in a Cheese Factory * * 
Curator - Nunne/ Field - Left-field(ish) jazz; a pretty wide range, with everything from 
Sonny Rollins to Wayne Shorter and free jazz. 

Marion Brown - Vista (1975) 

Nothing if not underrated, Impulse's Marion Brown catalogue still remains un-issued, 
though 'Afternoon of a Georgia Faun' is at least available on an ECM CD. While the 
saxophonist and composer had achieved a glistening, twinkling, magical perfection on 
'Sweet Earth Flying', whose rich electric piano and organ textures suggest what would 
have happened if Miles Davis' 'In a Silent Way' had been led by a free jazz player, he 
lets things get a little too laid-back, smooth and moody here. I mean, for heaven's sake, 
there's a cover of a Stevie Wonder song - but the record does also feature the gorgeous 
'Bismillahi Rrahmani Rrahim', composed by Harold Budd and later to be reworked at 
length on his ambient/jazz/contemporary classical masterpiece 'The Pavillion of 
Dreams. ' 

Wayne Shorter- Odyssey of Isska (1969) 

Along with its companion session, 'Moto Grosso Feio', this is probably the most obscure 
of Shorter' s records: a shame, because it's vastly superior to his intricate, but rather 
lifeless 80s fusion work (although I know that his its supporters too). Both are 
mysterious, probing, sprawling, and loose (like Miles Davis' 'Bitches' Brew Sessions', 
which were happening around the same time), but this one is more conventional in terms 
of its instrumentation, and has perhaps more of a foot in traditional jazz fields, due to the 
presence of Gene Bertocini's guitar. It's surfaced on a CD a couple of times, once in the 
late 80s and once in the early 90s, but seems to have disappeared again - although Blue 
Note did feature one short track, 'Calm', on their indispensable 2-disc collection 'Wayne 
Shorter: The Classic Blue Note Recordings.' 


Huppes et Hyalities * * 
Curator - Fredito/ Field - Free and left-field jazz, 1960s-present day: mainly 
soundboard/FM/aadience recordings, with a few out-of-print albums. Note the lovely, 
specially-constructed album covers in the style of Hat-Hut releases. 

Clifford Thornton/ Jazz Composer's Orchestra - The Gardens of Harlem (1975) 

A great line-up including the likes of Dewey Redman, Leo Smith, and Carla Bley, plus a 
hefty African rhythm section tackles a hugely ambitious project, which was unfortunately 
never fully realized, due to financial constraints, as Eugene Chadbourne points out in his 
review for Still, it's one of those albums that can be listened to over and 
over, once you get past the initial disappointment and the fact that it had the potential to 
be even greater. A massive conglomeration of players and styles that blends Latin, 
Gospel, Arabic, African, and blues aspects with jazz and free improv, it was Thornton's 
last major recorded statement before his death in 1983. 

Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen Festival '87: three concerts 

Cecil Taylor solo 

7 Nickelsdorf '87 

~*™., ' 

I -,rtT 


Inconstant Sol * * 

Curators - Wallofsound, sotise, Flux'us, kinabalu, Boromir/ Mission Statement - "We 

are diving in like leopard seals, stealthily. To us the ' inconstant sol' is a concept as exciting as 
penguin is to the leopard seal. What is inconstant? It's the speed of light (sol). That changes 
everything, somehow. A delirious joy from which flows the smorgasbord of all those things we 
really love jazz, improv, marginal art, politics, food, bad photos, psycho sexual dynamics 
and so on ad infinitum. " 

Archie Shepp - Pitchin' Can (1969) 

This recording was released on the America label (which, like BYG/Actuel, never paid 
its artists). It consists of just 2 tracks: the lengthy large-ensemble freakout "Uhuru (Dawn 
of Freedom"), which has never been released on any other recording, and the shorter 
blues number "Pitchin' Can," which has been re-issued as part of the CD 'Black Gipsy.' 
Not an essential record by any stretch of the imagination, but you get three drummers- 
(yes, three, including the wonderfully-named Ostaine Blue Warner), searing tenor work 
from Shepp, and nice turns from trumpeters Clifford Thornton, Lester Bowie and Alan 


Joe Harriott - Southern Horizons (1960) 

Exceedingly rare LP from a man hailed as one of the greatest British jazz performers of all time, 
though he was criminally under-recognized, and died a virtual pauper. He made pioneering 
collaborations with John Mayer, fusing jazz and Indian classical music, and developed his own 
free-jazz conception, separately from Ornette Coleman. He's on the verge of that free 
form/abstract period here, but still just about anchored in the hard bop mode on this, his first 
long-playing record as a leader. Check out the bongos on a couple of the tracks - very hip!. 

Jacques Coursil - Black Suite (1969) 

Eugene Chadbourne for allmusic guide: "This amazing trumpeter led two album sessions for 
BYG, both highly respected projects. This might be the one to take off to the desert island. . . As 
kind of the lost voice of the trumpet in modern jazz, Coursil is not only a great discovery for the 
modern jazz fan, but a fine creative vintage that holds up to repeat visits over the years. His 
control of the difficult horn and totally original melodic thinking really makes his playing stand 
out among the admittedly thin ranks of avant-garde trumpet players. None of the players who 
have Coursil's technical mastery play with as much heart and soul. . . [This] is one of the best 
examples of just how beautiful modern jazz can be." 

Elvin Jones Sextet - Live at the Lighthouse (1972) 

Modern jazz with the energy and passion of free jazz, this recording was released as a double LP 
by Blue Note, but has never made it onto CD, except as a Japanese import. The two saxophonists 
are what really make it: Dave Liebman wails with controlled post-Coltranian abandon, and Steve 
Grossman is on the form of his career. 

Jizz Relics * * 

Curator - Jizzrelics/ Field - Free jazz and improv, noise, electronic, experimental 

Don Cherry & the Brotzmann Trio - Live in Berlin, 27 th August 1971 
A bootleg recording, with fairly dodgy, muffled sound, but the only chance you'll get to 
hear this atypical group of this atypical quartet. It's surprising how well the free form 
playing of the European trio sits with Cherry (who had moved into his 'world music' 
phase by this point): the combination of his chanting, yodeling, screaming, singing and 
flute playing (as well as, of course, his trumpet), with the screaming improv of Brotz and 
co is an oddly compelling one, and helps reveal a different side to the three European 
musicians that they don't so often display, more akin to the 'spiritual' free jazz of 
Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas. 

Treehouse for Earth's Children * * 
Curator - Detroit JR/ Field - A blog with only 8 posts; nevertheless, they are a pretty eclectic 
bunch, from Don Cherry, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Man Machine, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders 
and Don Cherry. It proudly proclaims that it is "illegally filesharing copyrighted material under 
the guise of selflessly promoting commercially available music", but don't let that put you off: 
this really is commercially unavailable music, and very good it is too. 

John and Alice Coltrane - Infinity (1972) 

Alice dubs strings and new rhythm section parts onto some otherwise un-issued late-60s 
recordings by her husband: a controversial move, but one that somehow pays off, for the 
most part, particularly in her repetitive, non-developmental harp interlude/solo from 


'Peace on Earth,' which seems to exist in a state of suspended animation. Yes, I suppose 
you could call it 'John Coltrane with Strings', but these are (to borrow the title of another 
album), 'strange strings' indeed, and it's perhaps indicative of the sort of direction he 
would have gone in if he'd lived. Despite all that, 'Infinity' has the dubious distinction of 
being one of the only Coltrane albums never to have been released in the U.S. on CD. 

Don Cherry - Organic Music Society (c.1971) 

Here's the blog's own description: "recorded in Sweden on a hippie / commune / organic 
farm. Equal parts free jazz, freak-folk, and Mmanson family jams.... Apparently released 
in 1971 although some sources say 1972 or later." 

The Magic of Juju * * 

Field - Rare African and Indian 'world' music, as well as some 60s/70s avant-garde 

Rock and 'New Thing' albums. 

New York Art Quartet - Mohawk (1965) 

From the early heyday of the 60s New Thing, a fantastic group similar to The New York 
Contemporary Five, which Tchicai co-led with Archie Shepp. This particular line-up has Milford 
Graves on drums, Roswell Rudd, trombone, and Reggie Workman, a few years on from Coltrane, 
on bass. Tchicai, from the sleeve notes: "the important thing about our music is that it must be 
heard and listened to without preconceived ideas as to how jazz should sound - listen to it as 
MUSIC and let that be the only label! 

There is so much talk about the freedom of this music, but the musician still has to abide 
to the rules of artistical responsibility, and they should never forget that whichever way the 
technique develops: the content (the feeling) must always be there (passion, energy, lyric, 

Amiri Baraka - It's Nation Time (1972) 


Rather than being released through Baraka's own controversially-named 'Jihad' label, 
this one came out on Black Forum, a short lived Motown spoken word label active from 
1970 to 1973 which also issued albums by such notable black figures as Martin Luther 
King, Stokley Carmichael and Langston Hughes. Mixing poetry, chants, and songs (all 
laced with anti- American sentiment), it begs Blacks to realize their African roots and 
strike back against the Empire. While the politics are sometimes hard to swallow, the 
music itself is immensely impressive, with Baraka's passionate vocal virtuosity underlain 
by a virtual who's who of spiritual/free-jazz musicians, including Gary Bartz, Lonnie 
Liston Smith, Idris Muhammad, and Reggie Workman. A particular highlight is the right- 
on groove of 'Who Will Survive America?' 

Ph aroah Sanders - W isdom Through Mus ic (Impulse, 1973) 

Generally I tend to think Pharoah went 
downhill when he mellowed out (reaching 
a nadir with 1976's truly awful 'Pharoah'), 
but this is one of his better efforts - not as 
rambling and repetitive as some of his 
other work, but instead, with song titles 
averaging around 5 minutes, it's concise, 
joyous, and expressive. The 3-man 
percussion lineup (including Miles Davis' 
sidemen Badal Roy and James Mtume) 
doesn't hurt either! You would think 
Impulse would come round to re-issuing 
this some time: it should sit well with the 
' spiritual/groove/retro-jazz' market. 

Pharoah's Dance * * 

Cutrator - vesper/ Field - A pleasing focus on neglected artist like Billy Harper, Walt 
Dickerson, including plenty of the 70s Strata-East style jazz. Also features some rather 
swanky Lalo Schifrin/Quincy Jones 60s soundtracks. 

Rufus Harley - Recreation of the Gods (1972) 

You may remember this man from his recent obituaries - the black jazz bagpiper who 
played in a kilt. . .On this date, he also plays electric soprano sax and a sermonette 
(whatever that is) - crazy stuff, but, once you get used to the instruments' sound, this 
turns out to be some nice soul jazz. 

Charles Tolliver All Stars (1968) 

Also released as 'Paper Man' on Arista Freedom; superb music from a man whose 
current band (which plays some of the same tunes) has one of the top albums of the year 
in the reviews section. Fantastic rhythm section, and a chance to hear one of my favourite 
saxophonists, altoist Gary Bartz. Can't go wrong! 


Alice Coltrane - Huntington Ashram Monastery (1969)/ Lord of Lords (1972)/ 
Illuminations (with Carlos Santana) (1974) 

The earliest of these three finds Mrs Coltrane in the stripped-down setting of a trio with 
Ron Carter and Ben Riley, and is worth hearing, if not essential. 'Lord of Lords' is 
another matter, with a full string orchestra providing extremely beautiful and unusual 
textures. Excerpts from the Santana/Coltrane album were included on Bill Laswell's 
lovely 'Divine Light' album, which remixed music from Santana's 1970s spiritual/jazz 
period, but it's nice to get a chance to hear the full record, which is still OOP. Lush string 
arrangements, floaty harp, pure high-toned guitar lines - totally blessed-out and mellow. 

Orgy in Rhythm * * 

Curator - bacoso/ Field - All sorts: Latin music, Japanese jazz, soul jazz, fusion, 60s 

Blue Note recordings (lots of great obscure Bobby Hutcherson), the occasional free jazz 


The Leon Thomas Album (1970) 

The follow to ' Spirits Known and 
Unknown,' this was, for some reason, 
never released on CD. A big-band is 
employed, full of jazz luminaries like 
Billy Harper, Roy Haynes, Billy 
Cobham, and James Spaulding (as well 
as a female backing chorus). Closest to 
the 'spiritual/free jazz Thomas is most 
famous for is a tune written by Pharoah 
Sanders, 'The Journey', in which more 
avant-garde jazz is used to evoke exotic 
and mysterious atmospheres. 

Nothing Is * * 

Curator - James/ Mission Statement - "A music sharing blog that specialises primarily 

in the jazz underground. " 

Dewey Redman - Coincide (Impulse, 1975) 

While only three of the seven pieces presented here are actually still unavailable (Impulse 
released four of them as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of Redman's other album for the 
label, 'The Ear of the Behearer'), they are still mighty interesting. 'Meditation 
Submission Purification' in particular, a mysterious, beautiful track with Redman playing 
zither, really deserves to see the light of day. 

Marion Brown - Gesprachsfetzen (1968) In Sommerhausen (1969) 

Two European dates with vibes player Gunter Hampel (and, on the latter, vocalist Jeanne Lee). 
The second in particular is a great example of cool modernism - more 'weird', objective, playful, 
and satiric, than American 'Fire Music' of which Brown had been a part, but deeply serious and 
emotionally felt too. 


Marion Brown - Creative Improvisation Ensemble (1970) Soundways (1973) 

Two spare and spontaneous duet albums: the first with trumpeter Leo Smith, released on Freedom 
Records in 1970, the second with pianist Elliott Schwartz, recorded live in 1973. 

Milford Graves/Don Pullen NOMMO 
(1966). From Thurston Moore's 'Top 10 
from the Free Jazz Underground' list: 
"Milford may be one of the most 
important players in the Free Jazz 
underground. He enforces the sense of 
community as a primary exponent of his 
freely improvised music. His drumkit is 
home-made and he rarely performs 
outside of his neighborhood. When he 
does perform he plays his kit like no 
other. Wild, slapping, bashing, tribal 
freak-outs interplexed with silence, 
serenity and enlightened meditation. This 
LP was manufactured by the artists in 
1 967 and is recorded live at Yale 
University. The interplay between 
Milford and Don is remarkable and very 

If, for any reason, you don't feel comfortable downloading full albums, the 
following site offers a useful alternative: Melodiradion ("jazz and other sounds - live and 
rare"). It offers podcasts with radio and vinyl tracks from a wide selection of free jazz 
artists: . 

Of course, I shouldn't neglect what is perhaps the best of all these blogs: the 
inestimable Destination. . . Out! (named after the Jackie McLean album), where the hosts 
put up one-three obscure tracks a week, accompanied with concise and precisely fitting 
descriptions, which manage to be concise, witty and even poetic. It's got some big-name 
fans too: pianists Ethan Iversen and Vijay Iyer, the latter of whom contributed a special 
MP3-mix of jazz piano tracks which had personal significance for him, and were 
influential in his development. I've lost count of how many wonderful artists and albums 
I've become acquainted, or re-acquainted with, through Dest. Out's posts. An essential 


"Let's not have barriers where we can avoid them": AN 

Interviewers: David Grundy and Noa Corcoran-Tadd. Article (and photos) by DG. 

Mike and Kate Westbrook are, and have been, two of the most significant figures 
in British jazz for more than forty years. He - a superb composer and arranger, and a 
mean pianist -and she, a painter, lyricist, and strikingly individual singer - have more 
than a right to challenge Cleo Laine and John Dankworth as Britain's leading jazz couple, 
and their creative powers are still as strong as ever. Over the years, they've brought a 
distinctly European sensibility into their work, while remaining very aware of the music's 
American roots (as evidenced by the stunning 'On Duke's Birthday', recently re-issued 
by Hat Hut). 

At its best, Mike's Concert Band, which in the 60s and 70s contained the likes of 
Mike Osborne, John Surman, and Paul Rutherford, was capable of generating a 
boisterous, buoyant joyfulness that has rarely been equalled. But there's also a distinctly 
tough, rough, gritty edge, too, seen most notably in Kate's deep-voiced, highly dramatic 
vocal style, arising from her penchant for Kurt Weill-esque music theatre: her voice has 
qualities which most jazz singers seem to lack. Astonishingly wide-ranging in subject- 
matter, they've tackled everything from Peter Lorre to nursery rhyme, the Beatles to 
Rossini, European birds to Europan painters, and in this latest work, the wonders and 
dangers of the internet, and, together, seem to have found the perfect balance between 
tradition and innovation, high-brow and low-brow, the old and the new. 


All these things are true of their latest group, the Village Band, which, back in 
November 2007, appeared for a performance at the intimate venue of Kettle's Yard in 
Cambridge. Joining Mike, who played euphonium, and either composed or arranged the 
music that was played, and Kate, who played tenor horn, sang, and wrote lyrics, were 
Gary Bayler on tenor sax, Stan Willis on alto sax, Mike Brewer on trumpet, and Sam 
Smith on trombone. An unusual line-up for a jazz group, and one with an interesting 
repertoire: they begin with 'The Waxeywork Show' - a suite with music by Mike, and 
extraordinary lyrics by Kate, which draw parallels between Victorian waxwork shows 
and the internet - and end with 'All that Jazz', another suite which encapsulates a good 
deal of jazz history, in a collection of classic pieces and standards from Jelly Roll Morton 
to Mingus. The band's also got an interesting history behind it, as Mike went on to tell us, 
in a conversation that skirted through the Westbrooks' entire career, and a good deal of 
jazz history too! 

David Grundy: Perhaps we could start with this project, with the Village Band: 
the genesis behind it, how it came about, what you're trying to do with it. 

Mike Westbrook: Well, it really did begin as a little band in the little village in 
South Devon, where Kate and I were living about 10 years ago. It was very much an 
affair with local musicians, kids, school-kids, and one or two other amateur players, with 
me writing simple arrangements; and, as Kate plays the tenor horn, and I play the 
euphonium, it was a chance for us to [play those instruments]. The idea was to try and 
just contribute to the community, playing music at Christmas time, or at a summer fete, 
or whatever it was. So I started writing arrangements which were tailored to the abilities 
of the people in the band, and gradually the repertoire grew and gradually we got a little 
bit better: the standard improved, we used to rehearse every week, and it was a thing 
motivated really just by the sheer pleasure of playing, and particularly playing brass 

And then there a bit of a transition, because sometimes some of the local amateur 
players weren't available for one of these local gigs that we were asked to do from time to 
time, so we started to call on friends in the area, particular Stan Willis, the alto player in 
the Village Band, who lived locally and we knew, to come and help out. Sometimes we'd 
wind up doing one of these summer fetes with a band of professional-standard musicians 
playing these very simple arrangements - which was terrific - and sometimes a 
combination of the two: rank amateurs alongside very accomplished professionals. 

There was a very good community feeling about it all, and it was great fun, but 
there was a point where we had two bands, the amateurish one and the more professional 
one, and I started writing some arrangements which were slightly more complicated and 
demanding, for the professional one. It didn't really go much further than that until we 
had to move from that village to where we are now (Dawlish, near Exeter). Sadly, that 
meant we couldn't keep the Village band going any longer, but we did have this 
relationship with the other guys that had become involved over the years, and so we 
started rehearsing every week with this line-up that you'll see tonight, who all live 
locally. We're in Dawlish, Sam, the trombonist, is an Exeter player, the trumpet player 
Mike is from Newton Abbott, Gary, the tenor player, lives in Dawlish - so they're all 
local, and we just met in a bar every week. I would write some arrangements and we'd 
practise them - again, not really with any definite plans to do anything with it, 


professionally; it was really just for the pleasure of playing, partly a social thing and 
partly just for the joy of music. 

But there was a point in our rehearsals where I was starting to do some slightly 
more advanced writing, and the thing suddenly sort of gelled. I suddenly realised that this 
was a serious musical enterprise - perhaps the experience of playing together, maybe the 
way my writing was developing - whatever it was, we started getting into something that 
did demand taking seriously, rather than just as a kind of relaxation, and so at that point 
Kate and I decided to write a piece specially for the band. And that was the Waxeywork 
Show, which we rehearsed, premiered and so on - and now we've recorded it and 
performed it in various places, and it's going very well - and that helped to give the band 
a sort of identity as well. 

So we do that, which is a very original piece, with Kate's lyrics and my music, 
and so on, but we also, still, play some of the classic jazz pieces as well - you can see that 
bulging pile of music over there! We can play different kind of programmes, because 
there is still a kind of community element in this: the idea of music with a social function, 
which I think is a jazz thing, harking back to New Orleans, the Jazz funeral, the wake, 
and so on - music was part of all these activities - and the idea of a little band of people 
who can move about very easily. Because we play portable instruments, we don't have to 
worry about a drum-kit, or amplifiers, or anything like that - we can just go into the 
corner of a field and strike up if we want to, and we've done that, at a farm hog-roast sort 
of situation. 

So there is that element of trying to get music to different places, places it 
wouldn't normally be heard, as well as, obviously, the more serious concert area of 
things. It's still very early days with the group, even though, as I say, it's not something 
that's just happened overnight; there was a hinterland, it's gradually built up over this 
period, and it's evolved organically really - it isn't like the idea of 'let's form a band and 
make some money' kind of business, it's been much more letting the music lead things. 

DG: Just for the pleasure of it... 

MW: Well, I think that element's still there, but of course, we have to try to make 
a living as well, and we're slightly upping the level these days - we're getting some 
slightly bigger gigs, and we're happy to do that, but we still play in local pubs in South 
Devon, and that sort of work's very gratifying too. 

It's just the sound of acoustic music - and again, there's a tremendous brass band 
tradition in the jazz field, which I think this has slightly died out now. Because of the 
economics of the current situation, you won't often see a band with six horns in it - 
imagine that and then adding a rhythm section. . .It's totally uneconomical, so you don't 
actually get what I like - that rich sound of six instruments playing in harmony, and all 
the possibilities that brings: something that used to be part of jazz very much, but I think 
is less around these days - not that people don't like it, but it's just so difficult to organise, 
and it's so difficult to afford larger bands... 

DG: One thing about the Village Band is the way it seems to be a mixture 
between the British heritage - the community spirit, the brass band element - and then the 
fact that you're playing American tunes as well - Jelly Roll Morton, Mingus, and so on. 
Was there a deliberate attempt to fuse the two, or was that just the way it evolved? 

MW: Well it began, actually, almost entirely as arrangements of either Christmas 
carols or Trad Jazz numbers, and the occasional simple modern piece. Then, at one point, 


we had a chance to do a concert in a local festival, and decided to do something that was 
a kind of introduction to jazz history, which we called 'All That Jazz' - it went right 
through from ragtime to modern, and I played piano on some numbers, and we had a 
whole evening of going back through that. I and everybody in the band particularly enjoy 
playing those classics, and I feel it's important to keep that sense of history alive. This is 
one way of doing that: by not having a conventional line-up, with the usual rhythm 
section and so on, it's slightly taking the music away from its origins, and listening to it 
just as music - which means that you can then put a piece of Jelly Roll Morton next to 
Renaissance music, and you're just listening to six instruments playing music, basically. 
And, you know, there's a lot in common between these different forms. 

I think that the older I get, the more I feel it's so important to hang on to the work 
of Thelonious Monk, Mingus, Ellington. It shhould be kept alive, but not necessarily by 
trying to replicate the way it was originally done... very much as in classical music, people 
still play Mozart, we so we should still play Jelly Roll [Morton] or whoever. 

The Village Band: (1-r) Mike Brewer, Sam Smith, Gary Bayley, Stan Willis 

DG: That brings us on to the question of classical music, and the connection you 
have with that genre: you've written opera, you've written the Rossini piece, and so on. 
Quite a few people who like classical music often seem to look down on jazz, to see it not 
as a serious art-form, but as something inferior -yet you're bringing it into the concert 
hall, bringing in more complex arrangements and so on. You once said that jazz was an 
important way of reconciling "high art and low culture ", and so I wondered if you could 
talk a bit about the relation between the two. 

MW: Well, the tradition of jazz was that it was the popular music of the time - it 
was dance music, it was entertainment. Take [Duke] Ellington's band: Ellington's 
regarded as one of the great serious composers of the twentieth century, but right till the 
end they were doing dances in colleges, and all this kind of thing, because he was used to 


working in a showbiz world. He didn't get subsidies, the arts council wasn't paying pay 
him - he just had to earn money by playing and recording, by selling records in the 
commercial world. At the same time, though, you also got very serious music, 
experimentation, going on within that jazz milieu. An Ellington concert I particularly like 
is Carnegie Hall in 1948: a two-and-a-half-hour concert, which had absolutely 
everything: pop songs of the day; R & B; new suites, with very adventurous writing - all 
one after the other. Everything was there, and he seemed to quite enjoy all of it: he 
enjoyed entertaining the public and getting a good reaction, but he also wanted to say, 
"OK, you enjoyed that, now listen to this." 

You walk a tightrope between trying to exist commercially and trying to exist as 
an artist, which everybody has to try to handle in their own way. I think it is very 
important, and I suppose that's what I like about jazz - that it's got this sort of foothold in 
the real world. Composers in jazz tend to be people who don't sit in some university 
faculty writing the odd symphony every 10 years, then sending it off for somebody else 
to play - and they don't even have to there necessarily. It's much more the Ellington thing 
of writing a tune in the afternoon and trying it out in the evening, and having to run your 
own band if you want to hear your music played. I occasionally do write things now for 
other ensembles - Kate and I have written things like operas which we're not performing, 
other people are doing it. Still, the massive thing is this: have a band, and try and organise 
it, in order to play what you want to play. 

We then went on to talk about the 'star system' in jazz. 

MW: I don't know whether it's particularly fashionable, but I feel that I'm very against 
the star system, and the elitist feeling that can build up so easily around artists, around 
musicians. I mean, obviously, it's incredibly pertinent in the pop world, but also in the 
jazz world, to a degree: people achieve a sort of halo, a kind of eminence. . .They are 
brilliant, and of course they deserve all the prestige, or whatever, that they can earn for 
their efforts, but sometimes people get a greater sense of their importance than they 
should have. I very much feel more comfortable with the notion that we are contributors 
to the community in some way or other. We're not big stars, but there are people, thank 
God, in various countries around the place, who follow our music, buy all the records, 
and we meet them from time to time. So we know that there's something important - by 
us working on what we're trying to do and trying to perfect it and so on -and that this has 
meaning in terms of raising consciousness, raising people's sense of whatever - beauty? 
So I'm very much more inclined to that, and a little bit against the over self-importance 
of artists, really. That's all I can say on it! 

And, then, about the avant-garde... 

MW: Might be a can of worms... what are your thoughts? 

DG: / was thinking about the fact that someone like Paul Rutherford could be in 
your band, which is more mainstream, but at the same time could perform free 
improvisation, which is not very popular music. There seems to be a close relationship 
between players who can play on both the 'inside ' and the 'outside ' - do you think that's 
still the case now, or do you think that a division's opened up between the two? 

MW: Well, my sense is that it is more divided. Of course, when we all started, 
these divisions weren't a problem really - people had different ways of playing, and 
different interests. On the whole, as a composer, I've always liked that, because I've 


always liked different attitudes - and indeed, you'll find that in the Village Band, with the 
two sax players. You've got Stan, on alto, who's a tremendous musician, but there's a bit 
of a distinction between him and Gary, on tenor, who's more drawn to the avant-garde. 
Yet they're both superb players of their instruments, and both very appreciative of what 
the other does, admiring and thinking 'yeah, that's something I can't do, but. . . ' 

Above: Stan Willis on alto sax 

In a band, I think that sort of thing's fantastically interesting: one guy gets up and 
does one thing, and then the other gets up and does something completely different. Back 
to the Village Band, you've also got Mike, the trumpeter, who's a lead trumpet player 
really - he has an extraordinary range, and he could be leading a big band. It's a 
tremendous luxury for this band to have such a fantastically lead trumpet player- and he 
has a tremendous sense of blues. And then you've got Kate with her lyrics, which are 
sometimes very surreal, sometimes very political, sometimes quite bizarre - 'The 
Waxeywork Show' goes through a whole range of things, and very strange sort of poetic 
imagery is used in it - and then she'll also belt out a blues or whatever. I like it, when it's 
like a family of people who do different things. 

So, for me, it isn't a problem embracing these different things, and I never really 
felt it was for Paul [Rutherford] either - we were very easily able to go from playing a 
hymn or a comic song to some free improvisation, and it wasn't a problem. I think I've 
always rather kept to that sort of feeling in the bands that I've had. Spiritually, I'm very 
close to the avant-garde players and that spirit, more than I am towards the mainstream - 
the kind of straightforward, swinging jazz that people play - I'm not really part of that at 
all, and haven't been for 40 years. So, I'm much more interested in the freer spirit, if you 
like: but, of course I'm a composer, so I write, and I'm bound to be involved with 
structure and planning, and all that kind of thing, which in a sense a free instrumentalist 
doesn't have to concern himself with. 

I regret it if there are splits, I don't think they need, or needed, to happen - for me, 
anyway. One thing I suppose I've been working towards is creating a context in which 
freer and the more mainstream can co-exist, in which that relationship can somehow be 
made to work. Not everybody may think it does work, but I feel that is a healthier 


situation, rather than people getting into these sort of ghettoes. I mean, one example 
would be one of my favourite guys, Alan Barnes - a lovely sax player, who's been on and 
off in the big band. I remember various memorable occasions where we've played, and 
he's been sitting next to Chris Biscoe, who's very, very contemporary, and the two 
absolutely knock the spots off each-other - it's fantastic! Though you usually hear Alan in 
a fairly medium, mainstream sort of context, I feel that there's another dimension to him 
which he can easily get into, in another context. Then you could also take a superb 
musician like Peter King, known as the great bebopper - but put him in a free 
improvising context, and he's fantastic. 

I don't think there's a problem with musicians - maybe with the public? I would 
like to see it all hold together: what with the problems of the world, and the problems of 
jazz, let's not have barriers where we can avoid them - let's try and hold it together, if we 
really believe in things. That's what I'd like to feel we [the Westbrooks] are trying to do. 

We were now joined by Kate Westbrook, who was able to go into a little 
more detail on 'The Waxeywork Show', and how it came to be written. 

David Grundy: Earlier on, I didn't get to talk quite so much about the actual 
piece, 'The Waxeywork Show ', so I was wondering what lies behind the lyrics and so on, 
because it's quite an unusual idea, this fusing of Victorian fairground and the internet. 

Kate Westbrook: Well, Mike wanted to write a piece for the Village Band 
expressly, and it just happened to be at the time when I got my first mac. Before then I'd 
been computer-illiterate, and it was just such an extraordinary new world, for someone of 
my age. I happened to reading a Dickens at the time in which there's a waxwork show, 
and the people seeing the waxwork show -all its horrors and beauties and possibilities, its 
dangers and so on - were as fascinated as I was by this new world. A waxwork show 
would hold no horrors for me, and so I thought about the fact that each generation has its 
own new world which opens up - Galileo or whatever it might be - full of horrors and 
dangers and beauties - and presumably it has the same impact on every generation. What 
comes next I can't imagine - perhaps space - and I both loved and hated and feared it. 

DG: So a fairly ambivalent reaction... 

KW: Yes: the juxtapositions you get are very extraordinary - when you're just 
surfing, you just get such odd bedfellows, with the information and the wonderful 
resource that there is. But, as for Google, there was a big article in the London Review of 
books about Google at the time they were in China. One really has mixed feelings about 
the way that they behaved, with the censorship. Also, their slogan is 'organise the world's 
information and make it universally accessible and useful' - That's quite a thing, verging 
on the megalomaniac, really - and their motto is 'don't be evil'; I mean if you have a 
motto and a slogan and they're that set in a halo, it's quite alarming... So I'm very 
fascinated by Google and I can see that it's a great tool for democracy, but I also think 
that it could, in the wrong hands, as they say, be a great risk to us all. 

So I do have ambivalent feelings. I didn't want it to be a polemic, though, so I 
made it slightly Alice-in-Wonderland-y. I made the waxwork show the beginning of it, 
with the 'gizzards all gory' and so on: it's like creating a new life out of the wax, or the 
new products you can buy on the internet. I'm sure we'll soon be able to buy gene banks 
and that sort of thing.... Then, at the end of the piece, there are power-cuts and the whole 
thing goes BUNG... Wouldn't we all totally lost without technology, without the internet - 
we couldn't be without it now. 


Anyway, I wrote the texts, and then put them on the piano for Mike to look at and, 
as often happens, he said 'I don't see that this can work', and it was put on the side for a 
little while. Then he came back and started writing, and of course, to me, he got exactly 
the right idiom. And then we started rehearsing with the Village Band, because we all 
live in Devon; it was a very nice process of rehearsing, and I changed some texts, Mike 
changed some music, and then Mike would show me these changes, and he would say, 
'add another line here, or take another line out' - so it's a constant dialogue that evolves 
quite organically, really... 

DG: Is that the way your creative partnership works generally... do the lyrics 
come first, then the music, or... 

KW: Sometimes. ..If there were tunes of Mike's that I've thought were particularly 
lovely, I've written words: several songs came that way round. Or, as I was saying, 
Mike'll say sometimes, 'can you expand this, do another verse, because I want to do 
another development in the chord sequence, it needs another verse,' and sometimes he 
says 'can we cut that'... 

MW: Yes: a lot of the time, I would say that the text is first - we did a full-scale 
opera, last year, 'Cape Gloss', and we've done another one that's going to be launched 
next February - at least, I've got the lyrics, but haven't written a note of music... ['English 
Soup', to be premiered in February 2008]. It's going to have to happen - 1 think it's going 
to be one of those know, the Barber of Seville was written in a fortnight - 
but he was awfully quick! 

DG: One question I wanted to ask was in relation to the idea of texts and so 
on... the role of literature in your collaborative work, such as your settings of William 
Blake, and how it feeds into the music. 


MW: There have been a few things, yes, though I don't think the literary sources 
have been the main thing, really. There were things like 'The Ass' (1985) - which came 
about when we were commissioned to do something for the D.H. Lawrence festival, 
based on his animal poetry. 'The Ass' was the first one really that we wrote together, we 
wrote a whole scenario an hour and a quarter long, which was done by a theatre 
company, and which we performed as well, and played on stage -it was really very 

KW: You know, my favourite D.H. Lawrence poem is 'The Snake', which, if you 
look at it, is so perfect, is such a flawless piece, that I wouldn't be happy if Mike set it to 
music, because I don't think it needs music. Meanwhile, 'The Ass' is very flawed - it's 
actually not a very good poem - but it made a wonderful music theatre piece, because it 
has all those open edges and strange noises and things, which he's written out 
onomatopaically, and it incorporated some of his letters from Taormina and so on. 

As for Blake, well, I think Mike's settings of Blake are absolutely sublime. Some 
people do think they're too good poetry to be set but obviously Mike had to do it... 

MW: Yes, that was not the sort of thing I thought of, but I was commissioned to 
do it by the National Theatre, and it wasn't something I'd thought of at all - 1 was 
completely ignorant about Blake's work, about his poetry, but the particular thing about 
them was that they lent themselves to this very simple song form, almost like pop music, 
and so they made up 'Glad Day'. There was also a piece like 'Cortege' . . . 

Noa Corcoran-Tadd: ...The European poetry piece, with poetry by people like 
Rimbaud and Lorca . . . 

MW: Yes, we had various friends in different countries who sent us poems. 

KW: Neither of us is a good enough linguist to be able to read poems in another 
language, but because we'd travelled so much in the last 30 years - all over most of the 
known world, actually, but mostly in Europe - we'd made very good friends that we trust 
and who understand the music, and so we could safely say to them 'we want a short, 
Romantic poem, which you think would work here', and so it was a collective effort 

DG: Yes, and I suppose then there's visual art - the 'Art Wolf project for example. 
[To Kate] You 're a painter, so you've got that visual training - is there a way in which 
the visual art influences the way you make the music, or are they separate? 

KW: I think there's a degree of synaesthesia in all these things. Mike started as a 
painter as well, he was originally an artist, and it's just that I've carried on with it. We talk 
sometimes about the palette, and if I'm struggling with a painting Mike will come up in 
the studio and talk about it and sometimes the problem becomes the solution - you've got 
something not terribly interesting, but it's got a problem in it, and by dealing with that 
problem you overcome the dullness of it and find the solution, which takes you through 
onto another level. I think that happens to the music too, and then with the texts - we 
often refer to the way other disciplines work, in order to get through any knotty problem 
that we have in the one we're dealing with at the time. Is that true, Mike? 

MW: Yes. . .You're a tremendous colourist, and there's an analogy between the 
colour and the harmony, the nuances of it, which is very parallel to what's going on in the 

KW: And sometimes Mike draws, in the early stages of a new piece: whirls, and 
busy bits, and tranquil bits, and down bits, so that he's got a kind of maquette with which 
to build the music. 


In connection with this relation between sound and colour, I mentioned the 
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, who famously heard tones and chords as he 
painted, theorizing that yellow is the colour of middle-C on a piano, and a brassy 
trumpet blast; black is the colour of closure and the ends of things; and that 
combinations and associations of colors produce vibrational frequencies akin to 
chords played on a piano. 

KW: I don't think it's as literal as that: in fact, I don't think it even arises, unless 
there's a question or problem which provokes that sort of discussion. Sometimes it just 
happens so naturally and organically that you don't need to go there, you don't need to 
exercise it. 

Kate Westbrook on tenor horn and Mike Brewer on trumpet 

DG: [To Kate] Perhaps we could discuss your vocal style, which is different to 
mainstream of jazz vocal - it seems to have more in common with the Kurt Weill style 
than Billie Holiday or someone, with a great sense of drama, irony, changes of tone - 
like acting while you 're singing, at the same time. 

KW: I think it did come out of the music-theatre of Brecht-Weill and 
Stravinsky's 'Soldier's Tale', a piece we both like very much. It takes a little while to 
find you own voice; in the early days, when I joined the band, I just played tenor horn, 
then I did a piece, 'Don't Explain', which was one of the first songs I did. I got very 
fascinated by not only working up the voice, up into the upper register, but also by 
working down the voice, so that I can sing in the baritone range - so, it opens up new 


possibilities, some of them perhaps more theatrical than musical. But I always hope there 
is always music in performing any song, that it isn't the only thing, but there has to be a 
balance between the drama and the interpretation and the musicality of it - so that the 
theatricality doesn't swamp it. That is my aim: to keep the balance, which can sometimes 
mean even using the voice like an instrument: with, 'If You Could See My Now' [Mike 
Westbrook's arrangement of which is performed at the Village Band concerts as part of 
the 'All That Jazz' suite], that I don't really act all, I just sing it as it's written, because 
then it goes with the horns, and I think that's a better way to do it; if I did with great 
bravura I don't think it would really work - it's such a dense arrangement, the harmony is 
so interesting. 

DG: One final area was the political aspect present in certain parts of your work 
- the album 'Marching Song', and the William Blake poems, with his social criticism, 
relating to the mistreatment of chimney-sweepers and so on. Does jazz in particular lend 
itself as a form for expressing social and political disquiet, discourse? 

MW: Well, I think there' ve been very few examples - I think that's what drew us 
to the Brecht-Weill repertoire, because these are songs that matter. But there are lyrics in 
some of the American songbook - you probably know the whole story of Cole Porter's 
'Love for Sale.' We were doing a lot of Brecht-Weill material - sometimes Kate was 
singing in the original German, sometimes in translation, and a song like 'Pirate Jenny', 
which we still do quite a bit. And then we thought let's see what happens if we translate 
'Love for Sale' into German, and it's just like 'Pirate Jenny' - a really strong song about 
prostitution and exploitation, once you take it out of it's Broadway milieu. And that was a 
very important turning point. I mean, the song's been played to death by every jazz 
musician under the song, and also sung by people like Ella Fitzgerald and all these kind 
of people- you'd listen to it and think, 'this isn't a song about prostitution': you wouldn't 
know what it was about, really. So I think it was important to put it into that Brechtian 
sort of context... 

Actually, it was Cole Porter's favourite, of all the ones that he wrote: he really 
thought he'd got something there. It was very controversial: when the show first opened 
in New York, 'Love for Sale' was sung by a white singer, and critics were completely 
outraged. The song was banned, and they changed it to a black girl singing it, to make it 
more simple, and it couldn't be played on the radio for years, and that kind of thing - it 
really touched a nerve. I mean, most of the time, Cole Porter wrote this wonderful 
escapist, romantic music, but there were exceptions, like 'Love For Sale', and some of 
the other songs also. . .1 think that's what we were seeking at the time, as we developed 
some material. 

I think one of the really most important works is 'London Bridge is Broken 
Down', which is going to be re-issued in the New Year (originally released in 1987, it 
will be available again in February 2008), and I'm really looking forward to that coming 
out again, because that really went further than a lot of things. It had a classical orchestra, 
and a European kind of feel - it's very strong, the anti-war sentiment is tremendously 
strong. Nearly all the material is very hard-hitting. 

KW: We heard something that touched us very much: one of the local student 
radio stations, on the day the wall came down in '89, they played the German section of 
London Bridge, as the wall was coming down. 

MW: I think there's an awful lot in that, and although it's of it's time - there's a 


whole section about Wenceslas Square, in Prague. The square's now full of McDonalds 
and so on, but in those days, it was a huge long boulevard with a kind of diamond 
running up the whole of the middle, dominated by this very impressive statue of the guy 
who founded the republic. But anyway, the point was, the night we were in Berlin - a 
cold, November night, deserted - there was this incredible feeling of the reality, we 
knew, we could sense the human struggle. We were in a strange situation, playing at a 
jazz festival, which was managed by the state, and it was held once a year, at this 
amazing place, an old ballroom, and you'd have all-night playing with these German jazz 
bands and these bands from all over Europe, but it was only just brief moment a year 
when everybody could get together; it was closed off the rest of the time. So there were 
all kind of- although there weren't any lyrics in that piece - it was very much about that 

KW: The only lyrics I wrote were for London Bridge itself, which is the child's 
rhyme, which I wrote when Thatcher was in power. I found in the Opie book about 
children's nursery rhymes (The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, edited by Iona 
and Peter Opie), that they built a baby into the base to make it stand (as a magical charm 
to placate the water spirits, who would object to a bridge built, as it was an 'invasion' of 
their territory). So that's why I used it as a kind of Thatcherite metaphor - 1 got my 
Margaret-Thatcher voice on for that. . . 

MW: Yes, the dialogue between the proletariat and Margaret. . .On the whole, 
though, I don't think we tend to focus on the social and political side so much. 

That brought to an end our conversation with Mike and Kate Westbrook. I'd 
like to thank them for their patience and willingness to give the interview. 



In a year which saw the deaths of many great jazz musicians, one of the most 
poignant was that of trombonist Paul Rutherford. He had technical skill in abundance, 
pioneering the use of multiphonics and vocalised techniques on the instrument. Not only 
this, but he was extremely versatile: he could be heard in context as wide ranging as the 
Globe Unity and London Jazz Composer's Orchestras, the Mike Westbrook Concert 
Band, rhythm and blues band The Detroit Spinners, and, for a short time, prog/jazz-rock 
band Soft Machine, as well as numerous other large and small groups. He was equally at 
home playing blues, jazz-rock, straight-ahead jazz, big band music, and free 
improvisation, although he increasingly came to concentrate on the latter as the main 
focus of his musical energies ("I still love playing music in an orchestra, but really my 
love is just to get on stage and flick the bugle, you know," he told the American online 
magazine All About Jazz, in a wryly deadpan style). 

A founder member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1966, he was blessed 
with a seemingly endless inventiveness. "Of all the players," Derek Bailey told his 
biographer Ben Waston, Rutherford "could produce genuine surprises. If anybody at that 
point qualified to be called a free player, it was Paul." In contrast to some other 
improvisers, who tended to prepare some sort of sketch, some mental plan before they 
went performed, Rutherford claimed that "I want to go out not knowing what will 
happen, just getting onto the platform and playing. It will happen anyway." Perhaps the 
purest example of the free-improvising ethos around. 

I mentioned that his loss was a particularly poignant one, and this is why. Though 
he was a busy man in the 70s and 80s, work dried up towards the end of his life, though 
he appeared fairly regularly in gigs at the Red Rose in London (including the 2007 
Freedom of the City festival, his last public appearance). In a way, what's sadder than the 
fact that he's died is the fact that, despite being one of the foremost free improvisers on 
the scene, of the same calibre as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and the like, he was unable to 
get regular work in the last few years of his life, leaving him depressed and struggling. 

The All about Jazz interview I've quoted from before found him in a particular 
pessimistic frame of mind: "I just get so depressed about it — Christ, I know how good I 
am, but it doesn't do me any good money-wise. I'm in the worst economic situation now 
that I've been in my life. There are things you take for granted — sometimes I go out for 
an Indian meal, and I know it sounds silly, but I can't even think about that now. Inviting 
a lady out for a drink or a meal is totally out of the question — I can't afford it. Simple as 
that. I'm on pension now — I'm 66 years old — and I'm having trouble with the pension. 
I'm seriously, seriously depressed and I'm just looking forward to getting to the States." 

Not exactly a happy way in which to remember him, but then again, there's no 
point in sugaring the pill. Improvised music has never found much of an audience in 
Britain, and, beyond a small group of devoted fans, is never likely to find much financial 
support, so musicians whose beliefs lead them to commit themselves to such non- 
commercially viable work are not in for an easy ride. 

Still, there are many good things to remember too. Following is a selection of 
reminiscences, by people who knew and worked with Paul Rutherford. As will be seen, 
he was valued not only for his musical contributions, but for his personality, his wit, 
kindness, charm, and dogged commitment. Over, then, to Paul's friends and colleagues. 


(Note: an article about the memorial concert give at the Red Rose in London can 
be found in the gig reviews section of the magazine.) 

Trevor Watts 

Improvising m usician (mainly alto sax); one of the founder members of the SME 

SME (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) at Betterbooks Basement (London), March 23 1967. L to R: Paul 
Rutherford (trombone), Derek Bailey (amplified electric guitar), Chris Cambridge (double bass), John 
Stevens (drums & cymbals), Trevor Watts (oboe), Evan Parker (tenor saxophone). Photo © Jak Kilby 

My association with Paul started when we both met at the RAF School of Music 
in Uxbridge in 1958. That's how long I knew him. I agree that he was under rated, but 
then we all are under rated to be honest in this country. Promoters' eyes are always 
looking elsewhere. 

There's a lack of an open attitude to music [where] the content. . .is not dictated to 
by pressure from elsewhere. That's why I play a music that is hard to classify for most, 
but they all manage to put it in some bag or other according to their narrow view of 
music. Doesn't matter what the music is, it's got to have passion, involvement and 
creativity amongst other things. I don't feel that free form musicians have more of this 
than others. Some do, some don't. There's other musicians of other persuasions that have 
all these assets, but people into that music wouldn't like because of what they normally 
do. Like for instance Peter Knight of Steeleye Span. But when Pete & I improvised 
together it was always a good experience for us both, and there's some evidence to bear in 
a new recording that'll come out on Hi4Head, which is a live improv gig and nothing 
else. The music gels for the whole hour we play because we're both flexible enough to let 
the music happen in the middle and not where it could be perhaps more comfortable for 
one or the other. So trust was there, which to me is another major factor. 

Well I'm not sure what anecdotes to tell about Paul. A lot of them are half 
remembered. There was one time when we were still in the RAF Band, but this time 


based at RAF Cosford. That's where they now have athletics in the hanger where we used 
to do band practice. I bet you can see it now: Paul Rutherford, John Stevens & I marching 
up & down in our nice uniforms. Anyway we were to do a job in Belfast and we had a 
mutual Southern Irish friend who came from Dublin. His name was Paddy of course. So 
after the gig we went by train to Dublin and stayed in our friend's parents' house on a 
working class housing estate and went to the local working mens club. You can imagine 
in those days the IRA was till pretty active and whilst we were having a drink Paul stood 
up and said "Here's to the Queen". Well you could hear a pin drop for a moment, until he 
turned the whole thing around and let people know that basically it was a wind up, so he 
didn't mind the odd risk or two, just like his trombone playing. Also as you know, Paul 
was a dedicated Communist of the old school all his life, as was his Father, who I also 
knew. That wasn't the only thing he took from his Father. He loved his drink just as much 
and his Dad was ALWAYS propping up the bar in his local in Blackheath, and we'd both 
go in and have a drink and natter together. 

Other little story was that when we got out of the Air Force in 1963 Paul & I used 
to get together a lot and work and develop ideas in his parents' house in Blackheath, 
some of which were to be part of the very first Spontaneous Music Ensemble's recording 
"Challenge". And I remember on one occasion I went over to his house at a pre-arranged 
time, and he stood at the door and said "Do you mind if we don't do anything today 
Trevor as I don't feel like seeing anyone today", and that was measure of how depression 
could get hold of him. The fact that I went all the way over there couldn't even be part of 
the equation, and I'd known Paul for 5 years by then, so I accepted it. I think he suffered 
from time to time through this depression, the drink didn't help, and none of it helped his 
relationships with women. Getting lost in the music was always a bit of relief for him. 

Also when we were in the Air Force in Cologne Paul would be the first person to 
go out and buy the latest John Coltrane recording fresh off the press, and we'd all sit 
around and check it out. By all, I mean John Stevens, Paul & myself in the main, not 
everybody was into that music. 


Improvising musician: piano, electronics, and miscellaneous instruments. 

Without wanting to make it sound boring, what was important was his devotion to 
playing, more than theatrics. Of course, with this type of music, you're a composer as 
well as an improviser; organisation is a big part, and with Paul it was very much about 
how you organise music. Everything was devoted to that. There wasn't any theatrical 
aspect to it: he was just interested in making music devoid of cliches. Of course, to some 
extent we all fall back on cliches, but Paul was brilliant at avoiding these, at avoiding 
those things that sounded clever but weren't really, and that was really inspiring. 

He was a sweet, gentle guy, very funny, and very set in his political views. The 
music and the politics were separate, though: he would have played the same music 
whatever his political views. It was interesting at his funeral to see that his political 
friends and colleagues were actually quite shocked at the avant-garde music. 

His politics was quite old-fashioned: if we'd sat down and discussed what he 
thought of Stalin we would have probably had a massive argument... but we never did! 



Improvising pianist. 

Paul was a very sweet person to be with and a very committed socialist. As well 
as being a groundbreaking solo improviser on the trombone, he was an inspiring musician 
to play with and always to listen to. This country is very good at grinding artists down in 
to isolation and hopelessness, and Paul, amongst other friends, was a victim of this social 
and cultural irresponsibility. However, his music WILL live on and inspire others to be 
creative musicians. 


Pianist, composer, arranger, and big-band leader. (Note - The following was 
originally printed in 'The Smith's Academy Informer' (Issue, 80, 2007), a quarterly 
journal with information about all Westbrook projects, tours & recordings. More 
information online, at: informer.shtml) 

I first met Paul in the mid-60s at The Old Place and The Little Theatre Club in 
London. We worked together until the late 70s. As well as various small groups, he was a 
member of my Concert Band, where he formed a great trombone partnership with 
Malcolm Griffiths, and of my larger Orchestra. He was a major soloist on such albums 
as Release, Marching Song and Metropolis. 

When I formed a street band, The Brass Band, around '73/74, Paul was one of 
the first to join. The approach of that group was basically to play whatever any member 
wanted to play, when and where anyone asked us to play. This was liberating, musically 


and politically. The Brass Band gave space for all the talents of those involved. This 
suited Paul who, while already established as one of the major improvisers on the scene, 
had many other talents and interests. 

He enjoyed playing New Orleans numbers, arranging Renaissance pieces for the 
band, declaiming William Blake's poetry and singing Brecht songs, as well as writing 
nonsense lyrics and generally exploiting the comic possibilities in any situation. Paul, one 
of the greatest musicians I've ever worked with, was also one of the funniest. With Paul, 
the seriousness and the jokes were just sides of the same coin. The musician who could 
move you to tears with the beauty of his playing one minute was the clown who could 
reduce you to helpless laughter the next. A truly Brechtian juxtaposition of High Art and 
Low Comedy. This duality, this interleaving of opposites was always present in his 
playing. He had the ability to play within the structure of the material, while yet taking it 
somewhere else altogether. A simple example - when he soloed on Creole Love Call with 
the Big Band, he was playing both inside and outside the Blues. And however far things 
went, Paul could always take them further out. 

Those early years with the Brass Band seem like a Golden Age of travelling and 
playing all kinds of music, in all kinds of situations all over Europe. In that time we 
became very close friends, Phil Minton, Kate Westbrook, Dave Chambers, Paul, and I. 
Memories come crowding back of our many adventures, musical and geographical. One 
day maybe the full story will be told of what someone once described as our 'Wandering 
Everyman Troupe'. 

Eventually things changed. Whether as a result of outside political and cultural 
forces, or inevitable developments in the music, the scene became polarised. Where it 
had been possible for musicians from different backgrounds and with different 
approaches to march together under the same banner, now people started putting down 
boundaries. The implication was that "While all musicians are free, some musicians are 
definitely freer than others"- to misquote George Orwell. When Paul decided to leave it 
was partly a natural move to concentrate on his solo career. But, as he explained at the 
time, it was also a response to pressure from those hard-liners who maintained that his 
credibility as an improvising musician was being compromised by his membership of the 
Brass Band. Given this dilemma, Paul made the only possible choice .And it was the right 
choice as his artistic achievement and international recognition testify. Sadly we seldom 
met again. As often seems the case with bands, when you've been very close but there's 
nothing left to play, there's little left to say. 

I'm grateful to have known Paul and worked with him through such an exciting 
and creative period. It was a time of hope, when all seemed possible. Latterly when 
idealism gave way to pragmatism we were all in trouble. Some of Paul's contemporaries 
found ways of adjusting to the changing scene. The path that Paul had chosen 
didn't include a contingency plan. 

On tour I remember Paul not only as a wonderful trombonist and euphonium 
player but a warm and generous friend, full of wicked good humour, and an excellent 
drinking companion. As things got more difficult, however, in more recent times the 
jokes became bitter. And the drink nearly killed him in 2000. He pulled through, and 
when Kate and I saw him at his benefit gig at the 100 Club and talked a bit about old 
times, he was frail but just the same Paul as ever was. Soon he was back travelling and 
playing. But these are cruel times for the creative artist, and with ever diminishing 


opportunities a sense of hopelessness can easily take over. There was no turning back for 
Paul, nothing to fall back on. He risked everything to be free. And his life, cut off too 
short as it was, was yet a triumph of the creative spirit. 

Paul Rutherford changed music and changed lives for ever. I know he changed 
and enriched mine. Rest in Peace. 

I'll leave the last word to Kate Westbrook, who briefly spoke about Paul when 
interviewed after The Village Band's concert last year (see main feature: interview with 
Kate and Mike Westbrook). She recalled a time when the Brass Band played at a home 
for mentally disturbed children. One child became particularly attached to Paul, and 
would follow him wherever he went. Of course, she was heartbroken when he had to 
leave. An example of his great personal charm, and his ability to break through musical 
and emotional barriers, and reach across to the listener - a quality that appealed to a child 
as much as it did to the most extreme followers of avant-garde music. 

After telling the anecdote, Kate Westbrook said: "Don't make it sentimental. Paul 
wouldn't want that." I hope I've managed to do so. 

With thanks to all the musicians who contributed their memories of Paul Rutherford. 



"Criticism is always the easiest art. 
- Cornelius Cardew 

ANDERSON, FRED/DRAKE, HAMID - From the River to the Ocean 

BANG, BILLY WITH FRANK LOWE- Above and Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids 


BENNINK, HAN - Amplified Trio 

BENNNINK, HAN - Nerve Beats 

BLANCHARD, TERENCE - A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem for Katrina 

BLEY, CARLA - The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu 

BLEY, PAUL - Solo in Mondsee 

BRAXTON, ANTHONY - 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 







DOUGLAS, DAVE - Live at the Jazz Standard 

EDWARDS, MARC - Ion Storm 

EDWARDS, MARC - Twelve Votes 

ELLING, KURT - Nightmoves 


EVANS, PETER- The Peter Evans Quartet 

fORCH - Spin Networks 

FORTUNE, SONNY - You and the Night and the Music 

FRIEDLANDER, ERIC - Block Ice and Propane 


GUSTAFSSON, MATS/ YOSHIMI - Words on the Floor 

HANCOCK, HERBD2 - River: The Joni Letters 

HARGREAVES, PHIL/WEYANT, GLENN - Friday Morning Everywhere 

HIS NAME IS ALIVE - Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown 

MARSALIS, WYNTON - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary 


METHENY, PAT/MEHLDAU, BRAD - Metheny/Mehldau Quartet 


MITCHELL, ROSCOE - Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1,2 & 3 


MONCUR III, GRACHAN - Inner Cry Blues 


O' LEARY, MARK- On the Shore 





POTTER, STEVE - Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard 



TYNER, McCOY - McCoy Tyner Quartet 


SHD?P, MATTHEW - Piano Vortex 

SURMAN, JOHN - The Spaces in Between 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Free Sampler, Vol. II 

WARE, DAVID.S - Renunciation 

WASSERMANN, UTE - Birdtalking 

WEASEL WALTER - Firestorm 

WEBER, EBERHARD - Stages of a Long Journey 


WYATT, ROBERT - Comicopera 

ZORN, JOHN - From Silence to Sorcery 

Historical/ Re-Issues 


BROTZMANN, PETER- The Complete Machine Gun Sessions 

CHERRY, DON - Live at the Cafe Montmartre 1966 

COLTRANE, JOHN - My Favorite Things: Coltrane Live in Newport 

COXHILL, LOL/MILLER, STEVE - The Story So Far/Oh Really? 

DAVIS, MILES - The Complete On the Corner Sessions 

ERVIN, BOOKER- The Freedom Book 

GREENE, BURTON - Bloom in the Commune 

HILL, ANDREW - Compulsion 

HOWARD, NOAH - The Black Ark 

HOWARD, NORMAN - Burn Baby Burn 

MAUPIN, BENNIE - The Jewel in the Lotus 

MEVGUS, CHARLES - Cornell '64 

MURRAY, SUNNY - Sunny Murray 


RA, SUN - Night of the Purple Moon 

RA, SUN - Strange Strings 

TD7PET, KEITH - Ovary Lodge 

TRIO OF DOOM (John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams)- Trio of Doom 

Reviewers: David Grundy, Massimo Ricci, Stef Gijssels, Ian Thumwood, Noa Corcoran-Tadd, Michael 
Ardiaolo, Henry Kuntz, Will Layman, Seth Watter, Daniel Melnick, Andrew Forbes, Marcello Carlin, 
Anthony Whiteford 



By David Grundy 

Well, to start off the reviews, here are my albums of the year. By no means a 
definitive list, it is instead a personal selection of those records that have provided me 
with the most rewarding listening experiences over the past twelve months. Who knows, 
some of the music I've dismissed may turn out to be remembered and appreciated in years 
to come. ..I can but try to offer my humble opinion! 

When trying to compile this sort of list, one inevitably thinks of the question: 
what kind of a year was it for jazz? One like any other, I suppose, with many, many solid 
releases (of which the reviews in this magazine provide only a snapshot). Established 
figures continued to turn out high-quality music, most notably with the welcome return of 
underrated trumpeter Charles Tolliver, leading a fantastic, high-energy big band session, 
while the likes of John Surman and Evan Parker (one of the most prolific artists around) 
explored a more considered, brooding approach. An up-and-coming artist who really will 
be one to watch is trumpeter Peter Evans: his music balances tradition and the avant- 
garde with the spirit, if not the vocabulary, of Jackie McLean and Andrew Hill's 
'inside/outside' approach during the 1960s. 

Perhaps most notable, though, was a monumental work that was strangely missing 
from most other critics' end of year lists, and the coverage in both the jazz and classical 
press: as Anthony Braxton's 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006. 1 personally haven't had time 
to fully appreciate and absorb it, yet: it's the sort of music that demands the same full and 
absolute engagement given by the performers, from the listener, and it's hard to find the 
time to devote this much attention to every single disc in a large box-set. In a way, my 
failure is hardly surprising, when you consider that it is basically the summary of 
Braxton's musical journey so far - a journey that has already been ridiculously 
productive and prolific. He is a man with a claim to be at least considered as the greatest 
musician to walk the planet this century, or any century, and this set of records is an 
incredibly significant piece of work in his output. And I guess that alone would be quite 
enough for any year! 

Read on for the reviews. . . 

1. Anthony Braxton - 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 

2. Charles Tolliver Big Band - With Love 

3. John Surman - The Spaces in Between 

4. William Parker - Cornmeal Dance 

5. Evan Parker/Matthew Shipp - Abbey Road Duos 

6. Peter Brotzmann/Mats Gustafsson/Paale-Nilsson Love - The Fat is Gone 

7. His Name is Alive - Sweet Earth Flower 

8. fORCH - Spin Networks 

9. Peter Evans - The Peter Evans Quartet 

10. Robert Wyatt - Comicopera 



Label: Firehouse 12 records 
Release Date: March 2007 

Composition 350 (CD 1); Composition 351 
(CD 2); Composition 352 (CD 3); 
Composition 353 (CD 4); Composition 354 
(CD 5); Composition 355 (CD 6); 
Composition 356 (CD 7); Composition 357 
(CD 8); Composition 358 (CD 9). 

Personnel: Anthony Braxton: alto, soprano, 
and sopranino sax, clarinet, Eb contralto 
clarinet; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, 
fhtgelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo and bass 
trumpets, mutes, shell; Andrew Raffo Dewar: 
soprano and c-melody sax, clarinet; James Fei: 
alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet; Mary Halvorson: electric guitar; Steve Lehman: alto and sopranino sax; 
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto and bass flutes, piccolo, voice; Jessica Pavone: viola, violin; Reut Regev: 
trombone, flugelbone, mutes, cymbals; Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium, mutes, toys; Sara Schoenbeck: 
bassoon, suona; Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone; Carl Testa: bass, bass clarinet. 
Additional Information: 9 CD + 1 DVD boxset, recorded at Iridium Jazz Club, New York, during a week- 
long residency in March 2006, in which he gave the world premieres of his Compositions 350-58 with 
12+1 tet. [Recording Dates: CD 1-2 (16* March), CD 3-4 (17 th March), CD 5-7 (18 th March), CD 8-9, 
DVD (19 th March).] The DVD features Jason Guthartz's documentary 'What Kind of 'Tet?' (which 
includes footage from the nine sets and a Braxton lecture), and a complete performance of Composition 
358. Also included in the set is a 56-page booklet, containing an extensive collection of essays, 
commentary and biographical information. Available as a digital download from 

Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Music has not only encompassed but 
fundamentally transformed ("trance-formed") his entire music system. His GTM 
compositions can scarcely be considered "compositions," at least not in any usual sense 
of the word. They constitute what Braxton call "a continuous state music. . . a trans- 
temporal music that can be played in any tempo and a trans-idiomatic music in terms of 
its structural postulates. . . .Each composition becomes like a melody that doesn't start and 
doesn't end." (Braxton to Graham Locke, Notes to Composition 192, Leo Records). 

In other words, linear form has been set aside in favour of ritual form. Necessary 
structural determinants (in terms of overall movement from A to B to Z) have been let go 
of in favor of duration (time), the only underlying determinant of ritual form. In the 
Ghost Trance Music presented at the Iridium, an hour glass was turned over at the 
beginning of each piece to set a general time parameter. (Duration doesn't tell us what 
music will be played but it sets the open framework within which music can take place.) 

This shift in musical form (change in essence) mystified almost everyone when 
Braxton first presented it in 1995. Drawing on his studies of Native American music and 
Ghost Dance rituals of the late 1800s, Braxton's "first species" GTM was built on a 
steady stream of eighth notes that simulated the repetitiveness of Native American 
drumming. The GTMs have gone through three subsequent permutations, each 
interjecting new irregular rhythmic complexity into the steady line, culminating in the 
latest "accelerator class"/ "accelerator whip" GTM forms that are the basis of the nine 


pieces presented on the Iridium box set. These compositions, the last of the Ghost Trance 
melodies that Braxton intends to write, have become so complex now (speeding up, 
slowing down, twisting and contorting) that one might be hard pressed to identify them as 
even related to the first species forms. 

Jonathan Piper, in his excellent notes to the Iridium set, points to this 
development of the melodic line as the main distinguishing feature of the different classes 
of GTM. That is true enough, but equally important in their evolution was Braxton's 
decision (late in first species GTM) in the pieces he presented at Yoshi's (1997) to open 
the music up in unprecedented ways. 

It is helpful to recall that one of Braxton's first intentions with the Ghost Trance 
Music was to access the Ghost. From his conversation with Francesco Martinelli, Sextet 
Istanbul 1995 (Braxton House): "I believe that one of the problems of this time period is 
that we don't understand the old Ghost, the old masters. We have been given a viewpoint 
of the masters that takes away the aura of the Ghosts. All of it looks like artifacts and 
more and more children are not able to gain some sense of the real culture. But trance 
music means that individuals can do individual experiences and they can tap into 
anything, including the essence of the masters, of the old masters." (Within the Ghost 
Trance pieces, Braxton seems at times to be playing from another state of being; his 
solos, especially on alto, are right on the sonic edge.) 

In order to allow that "tapping in," Braxton had already built into the GTM points 
in the melodic line where players could move into improvisation, another composition, or 
into other ritual states (factoring in elements of theatre, body movement, stage placement, 
and so on). Yet until the Yoshi's dates, these open elements were well in the background 
of the main repetitive melodic line. You could hear them beginning to come to the 
forefront near the end of Tentet New York 1996 (Braxton House), but at Yoshi's, for the 
first time, they take centre stage. 

As he had done previously with his quartet, Braxton actively moved to include (as 
possibility) within the Ghost Trance Music all of the music that he had ever composed! 
But the implications of such a move with the GTM were more far reaching than with the 
quartet, for the effect was to now place all of his music within ritual time rather than 
within linear time; and whereas with the quartet, the different compositions that were 
played together almost always ran alongside each other, now pieces of pieces began to 
move continuously in and out of the music, restructuring the trance form along the way. 

Concurrent with this, Braxton began to break down the Ghost Trance Music 
hierarchically; subgroups of three and sub-leaders were designated within the larger 
group who could make decisions about when and where and which parts of which pieces 
were to be included within the main compositional form. (In what would become 
standard practice, Braxton also provided the players with "secondary" compositional 
material, miniatures for trios, that they could opt to include at any time.) As much or 
more than any transformation of GTM species lines, this change marked the actual 
beginning of the new reality of where Braxton's music now stands. With good reason, 
Braxton refers to the Ghost Trance Music on the Iridium box set as "THE point of 
definition in my work so far." 


What do the nine Iridium pieces 
sound like? They are nothing less 
than new orchestral archetypes. The 
Ghost Trance Music compositions 
are the most formally complex of 
any, and they are the most 
structurally open. In the new 
"accelerator whip" pieces prepared 
for the Iridium dates, Braxton 
included additional points in the 
written lines from which players 
might choose to "exit" into 
improvisation or into some other 
music ("strategy"). That means 
there is more space for the players, 
working from their non-hierarchical 
vantage points, to improvise and to 
create the total form of the music 
from the ground up. 
Photo: © John Rogers 

Each GTM composition suggests some type of rhythmic direction and movement 
that influences, ever so subtly, the way a piece will take shape. But the way the melodic 
line sounds is open to considerable interpretation by the players, each of whom is able to 
play it in any clef or tempo. In the later compositions, the players veer more toward the 
unisons we became accustomed to hearing with earlier GTM forms, but there's always 
some contrary pull and tug from somewhere in the group. The first evening's pieces, 
"350 " and "351, " open with wonderfully out-of-synch and disassociated ensembles that 
inform the players' dense approaches to the compositions. I love these! Piece "350" 
especially maintains a spirited sense of invention throughout. 

The orchestral range of the 12+1-tet is underlined by its broad instrumentation; it 
is the most varied of any group to have played the Ghost Trance Music. The music itself, 
as players navigate in and out of the main compositional line, takes shape through 
motivic and textural addition and subtraction. That sounds simple, but the players must 
make the choices of what to add or what to subtract in order to create engaging music. 
That they succeed in doing so throughout nine pieces of music over four evenings is a 
tribute to their musicianship and resourcefulness. 

It is difficult to characterize any individual piece, as each one moves through so 
much musical territory. But certain things stand out. On the first evening, Thursday, we 
feel the players' emotional edge, the underlying passion and enthusiasm for what they are 
doing; the music is a little wild! By the final evening, Sunday, that edge has settled into 
crisp execution; we sense the players' full-blown confidence in their abilities. Rich and 
tonally varied orchestral voicings emerge, and there is even a brief fantasia-like sequence 
midway through the closing set, piece "358. " 

Friday evening's compositions feature notably fast thematic renditions; the 
second piece, "353, " nearly hits a groove! That happens in no small part from the way in 
which earlier Ghost Trance Music forms find their way (as optional inputs) into the new 
accelerator class GTM; rather than define and virtually contain the musical space, as they 


did previously, the repetitive melodic lines now provide momentum, here and elsewhere, 
to propel the music forward. 

Saturday's three consecutive shows physically tax the players' creative powers; 
they respond with a highly organic opening set that moves from ensemble density to a 
near meditative state. Piece "355, " next, is likely the "quietest" of all the Iridium sets; the 
music feigns this way and that, deliberately pacing itself, then interjects some boisterous 
Mingus-like ensemble work near the final section. The third set, with the players in 
"dreamtime," features a staggered opening that sets the piece's tone; the music expands 
contracts, slows, stops, rides propulsive waves toward a calm conclusion. 

Giving over to the orchestral flow, Braxton's moments as soloist are fewer and 
shorter than usual. He occasionally chooses, however, to offer subtle musical direction to 
the group, like contrarily suggesting a neo-romantic vision in the midst of some dense 
ensemble; other times, while circular breathing, he squeezes out raspy, throaty horn 
vocalizations to give the music a much needed edge. Yet these new realizations of 
Braxton's music are not so much extensions of instrumental language or technique as 
they are extensions of the logic of orchestral form (Orchestral Ghost!). 

What is interesting is how that logic may transfer back into individual 
improvisation; for once linear form has been interrupted at the overall level of what we 
have heard (and internalized), players may find it emotionally unsatisfying to return to 
more usual ways of formulating sound. In that case, "trance-formation" would have come 
full circle. 

Note: The DVD included in the Iridium box features Jason Guthartz's hour-long 
film of Mr. Braxton at Columbia University outlining the theoretical basis of the GTM. A 
performance film of "Composition 358, " the last of the nine Iridium pieces, is also 
included and is essential viewing. The players musical decision-making processes are 
illuminated, and we see how much fun they are having bringing the Ghost Trance Music 
to life. 

Review by Henry Kuntz, June 2007, originally published at the following web 
addresses: http://henrykuntz. and 
http://www.m-etropolis.eom/wordpress/p/anthonv-braxton-121tet/en/ For an archive of 
further articles by Henry Kuntz, please see 


Label: Blue Note 
Release Date: January 2007 
Tracklist: Rejoicin'; With Love; Round Midnight; 
Mournin' Variations; Right Now; Suspicion; Hit the Spot 
Personnel: Charles Tolliver: trumpet; David Guy: lead 
trumpet; Chris Albert, Keyon Harrold, David Weiss, 
James Zollar: trumpets; Joe Fiedler, Clark Gayton, 
Stafford Hunter, Jason Jackson: trombones; Aaron 
Johnson: bass trombone, tuba; Todd Bashore: alto sax, 
clarinet; Jimmy Cozier: alto sax; Craig Handy: alto & 
soprano saxes, clarinet, flute; Billy Harper: tenor sax; Bill 
Saxton: tenor sax, clarinet; Howard Johnson: baritone sax, 
bass clarinet; Stanley Cowell, Robert Glasper: piano; Cecil 
McBee: acoustic bass; Victor Lewis: drums; Chad 
Tolliver: guitar (6). 


Additional Information: Charles Tolliver's recordings with the band 'Music Inc' (co-led with Stanley 
Cowell) appear on the legendary musician-run label 'Strata-East', which released some of the finest, and 
most neglected, 1 970s jazz recordings. Though out of print, old vinyl rips can be downloaded in MP3 
format from the internet (see feature on jazz blogs). 'Music Inc Live at Slugs', Vols. 1 & 2, and 'Music Inc. 
Live in Tokyo' have been re-issued in a Mosaic select 3-disc box-set, available in a limited run of 5,000 
copies, at asp?number=MS- 

There's something about great jazz recordings that, when you fist hear them, they 
just sound right. This new offering from 2006 by trumpeter Charles Tolliver' s big band is 
one such example, the band playing a selection of arrangements that could quite easily 
come from the "Golden Era" of jazz creativity that was the 1960s. In fact, some of the 
arrangements do hark back to the 1970's when Tolliver was leading an earlier edition of 
this outfit. The track "Right now" started life even earlier as a chart for a 1964 Jackie 
McLean recording session. 

To be honest, having caught this band during their tour of the European Jazz 
festivals in the summer, I was fully expectant that this record would be one of this year's 
finest and it certainly captures the sheer excitement and adrenalin that they mustered in 
concert. The scores displayed that hint of darkness that is a vital ingredient for some of 
the finest jazz and the power with which the brass punctuated the arrangements gave the 
impression of McCoy Tyner's powerful and swinging comping mutated into the big band 
genre. However, by far the most discernable influence on the leader's writing is Gerald 
Wilson with whom he studied in Los Angeles in the Sixties. Wilson's pedigree is 
immense taking in work for the twin bastions of Duke Ellington and Count Basie as well 
as having initially made his mark with the semi-mythical Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra 
way back in the early 1940's. Small wonder that this disc by his pupil should fit so 
smugly into the traditions of classic big band jazz! Like Wilson, Tolliver has stripped the 
scores of superfluous ensemble writing, leaving the reed and brass sections available to 
state the themes and punctuate the music with interjections that serve to propel ensemble 
onward. As a result, this music exhibits a masculine and muscular quality with the cast of 
veritable soloists carried away on top of the boisterous riffing that is such a feature 
throughout this record. All the themes bar one were composed by the leader and their 
close adherence to the tenets of Gerald Wilson's unfussy style make them instantly 
memorable. The most interesting chart on this disc is "Mournin' Variations" which opens 
and closes with a folk-like melody scored for unaccompanied woodwinds, the effect of 
which is quite beautiful. After a following brass fanfare and plenty of drums, the band 
settles into the kind of groove beloved of Coltrane's classic quartet, tenor maestro Bill 
Harper taking the initial solo honours. Followed later by Stafford Hunter's trombone, 
Charles Tolliver's trumpet and the piano of Stanley Cowell, the head of steam built up by 
the band behind them makes you wish that more big bands would play with this intensity. 

Despite its title, there is nothing romantic or dreamy about the seven numbers on 
this disc. Even the old Thelonious Monk chestnut '"Round midnight" gets a far brisker 
workout than normal. The opening track "Rejoicin"' very much sets that standard and is 
an exuberant 3 A waltz, the leader spitting out a pithy trumpet solo with the section work 
building up the kind of Herculean crescendo that you could visualise bringing the walls 
of the studio down around the ears of the musicians. 

The list of soloists in the orchestra consists of a roster of well-established talent 
such as Howard Johnson (baritone sax), Craig Handy (alto), Billy Harper (tenor) and 


Stanley Cowell. The latter shares piano duties with the very impressive Robert Glasper, 
one of the most exciting prospects amongst the latest generation of jazz musicians. Cecil 
McBee (bass) and Victor Lewis (drums) complete the stellar rhythm section. The latter' s 
superlative groove and prominent role in the overall sound of the band is an essential 
ingredient to the ensemble. Tolliver's son, Chad, solos on guitar on the riotous 

Sometimes Big Bands are unable to capture the excitement of the like 
performance in the studio and things can sound a bit clinical after excessive editing. 
"With Love" is exactly the kind of record that reminds you that there is still plenty of 
mileage in the jazz mainstream and demonstrative that is can be possible to be totally 
faithful to the band's appearance in concert. Unreservedly recommended. 
(Review by Ian Thumwood) 


Label: ECM 

Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: Moonlighter; You Never Know; Wayfarers 
All; Now and Again; Winter Wish; The Spaces in 
Between; Now See!; Mimosa; Hubbub; Where 
Fortune Smiles; Leaving the Harrow 
Personnel: John Surman : soprano and baritone sax, 
bass clarinet; Chris Laurence: bass; The Trans4mation 
String Quartet (Rita Manning, Patrick Kiernan: violin; 
Bill Hawkes: viola; Nick Cooper: cello) 

I surprised myself somewhat by picking this as one of my discs of the year; I was 
expecting to like it, but not quite this much. In a way, I think it's a purely personal thing 
- it's not the sort of album that's going to become a universally acknowledged work of 
great jazz, of the Kind of Blue/Love Supreme type. In other words, it's not the sort of 
thing that everyone admires even if it's not a personal favourite - but it does strike a 
personal chord with me, and that's why it's on this list. In particular, it exemplifies 
something I like about Surman' s output as a whole: the way that his explorations of 
texture, types of melody, and mood are draw on a specificallyy English tradition, which 
at times (such as in his orchestral and choral works), puts him in the mystical/pastoral 
tradition of the likes of Vaughan Williams. It's a quality that's hard to pin down exactly - 
something to do with a brooding, melancholic darkness at its centre, at times turning into 
folky nostalgia, at others romantic wistfulness. It concerns itself with the abstract, but 
remains rooted in the concrete - it can be very pretty, but there's always a certain 
beefiness to it. 

Fitting this into the context of his career as a whole, Surman' s taken the virtuosity 
of American jazz (where would the bass clarinet be in jazz without Dolphy's example?), 
and developed a muscular/wistfully-tender approach that has served him well, from early 


jazz-rock days (including a crucial appearance on John McLaughlin's 'Extrapolation') to 
the more spacious, almost ambient recordings he's made on ECM for the last thirty years 
or so. At times this new approach grew a bit wearing, especially during the 1980s when 
he tended to solo over synthesizer loops - there was a sense that he really needed other 
musicians to prompt him away from noodling. Consequently, some of his best work has 
been in collaboration with drummer Jack deJohnette. In the 90s, he diversified, moving 
into classical composition, and appearing in all manner of contexts. 

For his latest, it is the classical approach he turns to once again: this is the 
'sequel' to 'Coruscating', which is, unbelievably, almost a decade-old (it was released in 
1999). The only other jazz instrumentalist is bassist Chris Laurence, whose role is 
primarily melodic, and the absence of a drummer creates a very different rhythmic feel to 
your usual jazz record, with the Trans4mation String Quartet (assembled from scratch 
especially for the earlier project) bringing out the wonderful, rich textures of Surman's 

In fact, several of these compositions are adaptations of earlier pieces from 
different stages in Surman's career: 'Moonlighter' began as an exercise piece for a Royal 
Schools of Music Course in Britain; 'Where Fortune Smiles' was the title-track of a 
classic 1970 jazz-rock record; and 'Mimosa' was written for oud-player Anouar Brahem 
- and, though it doesn't feel at all out-of-place, it does depart from the more 'English' 
feel of the rest of the album (interestingly, while at London University, Surman studied 
sitar at the School of Oriental Studies). 

Surman's sensitive string-writing (none of the blanket wash heard on so many 
jazz 'with strings' album) also has its roots in his little-known earlier musical 
experiences: in addition to the large arsenal of reed instruments that he currently 
employs, he once played double-bass, even appearing in an orchestra under the 
conduction of Vladimir Ashkenazy on one occasion in the 60s. In fact, it turns out that 
the centre-piece title track of the album doesn't even feature Surman at all - it's a 
composition for solo violin which, he says, develops the way that he would play the 
instrument if he could. He continues the story: "It's really become a central part of the 
structure of the whole, an arching piece that binds the two halves of the album together. 
I'd sent the piece to Rita [Manning], with a little trepidation, about a year ago. She's been 
working away at it since then, and plays it fantastically." 

Such a process illustrates the confidence Surman has in the players, and the way 
the project has matured during the long gestation period between albums. In his own 
words, once again: "the music has been developed simply through playing: we've played 
together a lot now, and as we've progressed the string quartet has become much more 
integrated into the improvisational process too. The project has become looser in 
performance than it was when we started out, and it also feels much more like a band, a 
complete entity. I've learned that there are many more possibilities than I first imagined, 
and gained more confidence both in what I can write for the strings and in what I can 
leave to the players' imaginations. " Thus, at the end of 'Now and Again,' the strings 
have complete freedom, yet manage the transition in such a way that its hard to tell where 
composition ends and improvisation begins. This is obviously not music of the 
complexity and sheer intellectual rigour of Braxton's Iridium box-set, the year's other 
major jazz/classical fusion (although Roscoe Mitchell's 'Composition/Improvisation Nos. 
1, 2 & 3', also on ECM, should not go unnoticed) , but it aims for a different kind of 


effect, and one that many listeners will undoubtedly find more palatable than that of the 

Of all the instruments he plays, it's his baritone that's most prominent, and most 
effective, perfectly meshing with the rich strings on the darkly romantic, almost noir- 
esque 'Moonlighter.' He turns it into a vehicle for the expression a piquant yearning, very 
different from the gruff elegance of Gerry Mulligan, though like Mulligan he succeeds in 
turning what can sound unwieldy, clumsy into something mellifluous, liquid, malleable. 

Surman has honed everything to perfection: his playing style, (with its 
characteristic, slightly skewed, off-balance, surging melodic tilts), his compositions and 
arrangements. It's perhaps a summation of some sort, and, even if not quite that, it's the 
work of a superb musicians working at the very height of his powers and maturity, 
making music with the benefit of a wealth of experience and wisdom behind it, gathered 
form playing with the top British and international jazz musicians in a variety of contexts 
over decades, but also a young man's fresh outlook, an ability to be sharp and probing, to 
see into those spaces in between that others can't (between genres, etc). 

If I had one criticism, it would be the inevitable ECM one - that it's too samey, too 
one-mood. Despite occasional more upbeat, faster tracks, a whole hour of this sort of 
meditation is necessarily going to become slightly soporific - even more so as, typically, 
the album was recorded in a resonant acoustic interior (the Austrian St Gerold 
monastery), and given the usual 'Eicher' touch. Still, I feel this far less than I do with 
many other ECM albums, and it really has given something unique, something more than 
any other jazz release this year. 

WILLIAM PARKER / Raining On The Moon 


Corn Meal Dance 


Label: AUM Fidelity 
Release Date: October 2007 
Tracklist: Doctor Yesterday; Tutsi 
Orphans; Poem for June Jordan; Soledad; 
Com Meal Dance; Land Song; Prayer; Old 
Tears; Gilmore's Hat. 
Personnel: William Parker: bass; Rob 
Brown: alto saxophone; Lewis Barnes: 
trumpet; Eri Yamamoto: piano; Leena 
Conquest: voice; Hamid Drake: drums. 
Additional Information: Listen to an 
audio stream of the full album at AUM 
Fidelity's website ( 

*.** 3ii 

Parker (see feature on Downtown Music) has of course played with all the great 
free jazz musicians, but this is about as far from the likes of Brotzmann or Cecil Taylor as 
you can get. A more relevant comparison would, in fact, be Wynton Marsalis' much more 
hyped vocal suite 'From the Plantation to the Penitentiary.' In contrast to that work's 
rather bitter tone (Marsalis once again railing against everything that he has a problem 
with in modern society), Parker's work has a much more optimistic bent, focusing on 


pleas for, and visions of, peace -although it's by no means merely escapist and head-in- 
the-clouds, with accounts of injustice (Land Song, Tutsi Orphans) and radicalism 
(Soledad), and a homage to social activist and poet June Jordan. Nevertheless, it's the 
peace and love vibe that makes its present felt the most, and the 'naive' style of many of 
Parker's self-penned lyrics (it would be more accurate to call them poems) can become 
somewhat cloying. 

James Taylor, in his review for New York's All About Jazz magazine, writes of a 
"very real and true socio-political sense of urgency — not just some metaphorical 
impressionism", but, to my mind, it's that 'metaphorical impressionism' that tends to win 
through. The lyrics are structured around largely Christian references (the holy spirit, 
God), with occasional nods to other cultures (a juju stick, the final track, about angering 
the rain god and having to do a rain dance) - pretty much the de-facto spiritual reference 
for free jazz musicians from Coltrane to Ayler and Pharoah Sanders: a somewhat wishy- 
washy and vague (it could be said) peace-and-love hippy/religious sentiment (but 
nevertheless one that remains relevant in these, as in all times). 

The music has an appropriate, matching solemnity, which threatens to fall into the 
stodginess of Mary Maria's late collaborations with Albert Ayler ('Music is the Healing 
Force of the Universe'), but without that music's disturbing intensity. Instead, a certain 
earnest, well-meaning blandness that creeps through, on 'Poem for June Jordan' in 
particular (a duet for just vocals and piano) which has little of the adventurousness in 
spirit or intent that I value so much in jazz. 

All that said, the melodies Parker writes are simple and attractive, often buoyant 
and hummable, and the blues element brought in by the (intriguingly enough) Japanese, 
and female pianist Eri Yanamoto, gives it a nice solid grounding. Highlights include the 
unbearably happy yet sad melody of the title track, and the album's masterstroke, 'Tutsi 
Orpahns', with its subtle allusions to Beethoven's great humanistic Ode to Joy in the 
opening bass line and Chinese-sounding opening melody. This is also the best example of 
words and music fusing, rather than cancelling each other out: the lines "I am your 
brother/Please do not cut my throat" have an affecting directness. Reflecting the poem, 
the piece is divided into two sections: this opening plea, and then a lovely shift to a 
solemn, soaring song about a 'black angel'- perhaps the orphans' dream of redemption 
before they die. 

It doesn't break any new ground, and it's probably not going to be remembered as 
one of Parker's best, but it is the sort of thing that'll be nice to spin on the CD player once 
in a while, and it has enough distinctiveness about it to lift it above the pack. 


Label: Treader 

Release Date: September 2007 

Tracklist: Tenor suite i-iv; Soprano suite i-iv. 

Personnel: Evan Parker: tenor and soprano sax; 
Matthew Shipp: piano 


Treader is a small, modest label run by John Coxon and Ashley Wales of 
electronic/improv duo Spring Heel Jack: their aesthetic seems aptly reflected by the 
minimalist design of their website, and of the CDs themselves, which contain no liner 
notes, just the simple recording details, and come in delicate, plain cardboard boxes 
(albeit with elaborately embossed animal designs by Frauke Stegmann on the front - this 
one a shiny gold lizard). This is the label's third series of three releases, and the only one 
on which Coxon and Wales do not feature. Some might say that's a relief, as their 
tendency towards a slightly less 'pure' improvised aesthetic to that of the older 
generation musicians they play with can lead to such misjudgements as the new-agey 
soundscapes accompanying master Danish alto player John Tchicai on 'John Tchicai with 

Whatever you think about SHJ, they are to be congratulated for bringing these 
two musicians together - not the sort of duo you'd that readily imagine, the British avant- 
gardist, committed to one hundred percent to free improvisation, and the more jazz-based 
Shipp, who's experimented with hip-hop and electronica in his work, as well as 
thundering out mighty left-hand chords under the solemn massiveness of David S. 
Ware's 'godspelised' tenor sax. As it turns out, they really do strike up a rewarding 
musical relationship, and their playing has a lot in common. It's easy to forget that Parker 
began by playing jazz, and he taps into that stream again here in a way that he doesn't 
normally do, while retaining his uncompromising and absolute fidelity to in-the-moment 
interaction and discovery. 

The territory covered is often abstract and fragile. Some could say that this is the 
result of edginess - a cagey first encounter - but I think it's more deliberate than that. 
Both are being put in a situation that's slightly different to what they do most of the time, 
and thus create an entirely new approach (albeit one so subtle it doesn't feel as radical as 
it may be). They create open environments with lots of space, offering room for the other 
player to join in, to accentuate, to echo, to contrast: music where feeling and thought are 
often one and the same - sober and studied but full of emotion. 

'Soprano Suite Part hi' finds Parker focussing on little quiet sounds, on flutey, 
breathy sonorities, and Shipp spending most of the piece simply repeating an arpeggio. It 
has an important lesson - that improvisation doesn't have to mean jamming, showing off 
virtuosically, as it seems to in pop music, where the solo is a spot for the musician to 
showcase their ability first, and a chance to contribute to the integrity of the composed 
song second (that's my interpretation anyway; I may be wrong) - it can be a legitimate 
form of music in itself, and, more perhaps than any other form of music, in the right 
hands, lead to a focussing in, an intense inner focus, an inscape at once personal and with 
something to say to whoever wants to listen. 

Elsewhere, 'Part iv' of the suite shows how Parker's playing has an intensely 
physical quality to it (something Ben Watson has commented on in his writing on 
improv) - the best way I can think of to describe his playing here is 'quack-claps.' 
Behind him (or alongside him, it would be more accurate to say), Shipp maintains a 
delicate balance between high and low, light and dark, left hand and right hand - a 
careful gradation of shading, like that of a master visual artist. 

Their interaction is beautifully judged - Shipp'll play a phrase, then Parker'll 
come in after a bar or two with a skittering variant, before waiting, a natural pause built 


into his soloing style that adds tension and reaction and expectation and release. It's 
perhaps best illustrated by the final piece on the album, a very short track with Parker's 
watery John Butcherisms again skittering away, and then everything ending as if cut-off 
in mid-flow. The suddenness of this cessation caught me by surprise, and at first I was 
disappointed that there wasn't more - but if you look at it another way, after the startled 
realisation that it's over you realise that, yes, Parker's actually resolved the last phrase he 
played beautifully. The inner logic of his improvisations is profound in a way that can 
only have resulted from years of experience. 

There are those who criticise free improv for not being engaged enough: for being 
detached, abstract, unconnected, unemotional. Parker and Shipp's music may be abstract, 
but once you listen to it in the right frame of mind you realise that good free improv is 
some of the most engaged music there is, and is REALLY based on emotion as well as 
thought. I'm not trying to urge a prescriptive 'way of listening to free improv', as this will 
clearly vary from listener to listener, and may vary according to what mood the listener is 
in - 1 know that sometimes I'll get a lot more out of it because I'm in the right frame of 
mind for it. That's not a criticism of the music, that's a criticism of me. All the 
information and rewarding experience is there in the music for you to take out, but you 
have to make the effort - as someone (I think it was guitarist John Russell) commented, 
there is a need for virtuoso listening as well as playing. You have to share the 
concentration and focus that goes into making the music, to focus with extreme intensity. 

In an age where music is increasingly just another commodity, offering us 
scantily/provocatively clad women who are, let's face it, major pop stars because of their 
looks rather than because of the quality of their voices - in such an age, free improv is a 
major force in encouraging a greater respect for music and music-making, and of ways of 
turning LISTENING into a far more rewarding experience. 





STSJ 138 CD 


Label: Smalltown Superjazz 

Release Date: November 2007 

Tracklist: Bullets Through Rain; Colours in 

Action; The Fat is Gone 

Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: alto and tenor 

sax, bass clarinet; Mats Gustaffson: baritone 

sax, flutophone (flute with sax embrochure); 

Paale Nilsson-Love: drums 

Additional Information: Recorded live in 

concert, July 20th 2006, at Reknes, Norway, as 

part of the Molde Jazz Festival. 

A live trio recording from 2006, this CD has as much power as Brotz's tentet 
release, 'Guts'; if anything, it is even more aggressive, primally forceful in its impact, 
although, like the other recording, it has its melancholy and hushed moments. The title 
seems to imply exhaustion, a loss of the meaty power of Brotzmann's 70s heyday (he's 
not getting any younger), but that impression is soon dispeOOled by the music itself, 
which shows that he's still most definitely got it, and, what's more, has also got a fine 


partner in Mats Gustaffson, one of the younger generation of free improvisers, and a 
heavily Brotz-influenced sax player with a similar big-lunged, gruff and tough approach 
to his instruments. I find Gustaffson somewhat less engaging in other contexts, such as 
his band 'The Thing' (see review), but here, the two reedsmen inspire each other to much 
more compelling lung-busting displays and moments of fractured calm. It begins like a 
horse shooting out of the blocks, or 'Bullets Through Rain', as the track title puts it. 
Perhaps horse isn't really the right metaphor to use - it's more like a roaring, charging 
lion let loose in the race, perhaps devouring the other animals as they frantically try to 
escape. . . At just under 10 minutes, it's the shortest track, and keeps up the intensity pretty 
much throughout, with the two repeating memorable melodic phrases at each other like 
Sanders and Coltrane on 'meditations', driving up and up before simply letting go and 
screaming to the rafters. It's far from mere noisemaking, though - despite the feel of utter 
abandon, there's always a sense of purpose too. The music builds to climaxes, making the 
exhilaration when they come even more potent; these men are masters at creating 
structure out of nothing, sound of silence, and music out of all these things. 

Recently, it's sometimes felt that Brotz (like Evan Parker with his circular- 
breathing solo soprano sax trick, which he's done to death now), has been settling into, if 
not something of a groove (for that would imply coasting, and Brotz' s total commitment 
is never, has never been in doubt), something of a pattern at least - perhaps even formula. 
Here, though, such thoughts are brushed from the mind, as he and Gustafsson really spark 
off each other, provoke themselves into going places they had perhaps not intended, 
stretch things out, cut things short, find new sonorities. They play a variety of different 
instruments, including Gustaffon's 'fluatphone' (a flute with a sax mouthpiece); 
Gustafsson' s rough-hewn baritone finds its sonic parallel in Brotzmann's tenor, which 
has always struck me as rather baritone-like, in its really powerful low-register sound - 
few players have that mightiness, apart from perhaps David S. Ware. Brotz on his own 
has always been a pretty ferocious prospect - he must be the loudest player on the scene 
- and the three musicians make enough noise for many more. At times, the volume is 
such that it can generate a feeling of overwhelming, almost orchestral impact - yet one 
must not overlook the fact that a lot of the music here is quite subtle. For instance, at the 
beginning of 'Colours in Action', Gustaffson and B opt for a more languorous 
development, unfolding through tentative baritone and bass clarinet - it's as if 
overlapping conversations are being attempted, stopped and started mid-way, sometimes 
leading to awkward pauses, silences: proddings and pokings into the dark, before 
exploding into the white-heat-light of jubilatory Aylerian freedom. Another example: 
about eight minutes into the title track, the band move into a gravity of feeling that almost 
recalls the rubato ballads of mid-60s Coltrane. 

As Charles Farrell writes in his review for the website (from where 
the album can be downloaded), "The Fat Is Gone is really about voices. All three 
musicians (but especially Brotzmann) speak through their instruments. This impulse to 
vocalize subsumes matters of technique and linearity. The music doesn't "go" anywhere; 
it exists moment to moment, snarling and biting." Farrell believes that such an approach, 
which could be characterised as 'pure' free jazz, is becoming increasingly absent in the 
jazz scene today, due to the multiplicity of different influences working on the music: 
people are more likely to include hip-hop elements, a la Matthew Shipp, or funk, or rock, 
or world music, than this in-the-moment, high-intensity approach, with all the risks that 


being in the moment brings with it. In fact, I think his emphasis is a bit off the mark: free 
music applies across the genres - Brotzmann's 'Machine Gun' is often cited as 'punk 
before punk existed', etc. Gustaffson plays with rock bands, with Thurston Moore, etc, 
and Moore praises him for his openness : "Mats is the most modern of players where the 
genre tags of jazz, noise, experimental, avant-whatever are finally transcended to a new 
millennium - where compositional concepts are at once in check with open improvisation 
and a supermodernism what we always wanted: rock & roll". 

Farrell: "The album closes with a strange and moving fluttering of saxophone 
keys and brushed drumming, ending in unpretty beauty." A lovely phrase, and though 
there are moments in the set where conventional beauty is approached, let's face it, you 
don't come to a Brotzmann album to be serenaded to sleep - you come to be pushed to 
the edged, dragged along with the musicians, to look over the precipice and maybe jump 
straight in, an experience with its only healing power (catharsis?), its own engagement of 
the emotions, and eventually, you realise, its own beauty. 



HIS NAME 15 ALIVE presents 


o Ifibure I* MARION BROWN 

Label: High Two Recordings 
Release Date: November 2007 
Tracklist: Sweet Earth Flying; Juba Lee; 
Capricorn Moon (live); November Cotton 
Flower; Bismillahi 'Rrahmani 'Rrahim; Geechee 
Recollections (I); Geechee Recollections (II); 
Sweet Earth Flying (live). 
Personnel: Warn Defever: guitar, piano; 
Michael Herbst: alto saxophone; Elliot Bergman: 
tenor saxophone. Fender Rhodes piano); Justin 
Walter: trumpet; Erik Hall: Wurlitzer organ; 
Jamie Saltsman: double bass; Dan Piccolo: 
drums, percussion; Olman Piedra: congas, cajon 
drams; Jamie Easter: percussion. 
Additional Information: Available at Live tracks recorded November 
2004 at University of Michigan Museum of Art. 

"Ornette Coleman is the same as Charlie Parker, but he did it a different, the opposite 
way. Charlie Parker did everything that he did based on knowing harmony and chords. Ornette 
Coleman did everything he did based on knowing how to reach inside of himself and create music 
intuitively. "--Marion Brown, 2003 in an interview with Fred Jung on 

Though John Coltrane is the well-established hero in Brown's descriptive pairing 
of the quintessential bop saxophonist and the original avant-garde innovator, Brown 
himself, along with other sax players like Archie Shepp or Dewey Redman, have also 
brought vital blends of chordal improvisation and borderless imagination to jazz. Almost 
unanimously described as over-looked or under-sung, Marion Brown was an inside 
member of the mid-60s NYC vanguard jazz movement recording alongside and 
inspiring/drawing inspiration from Coltrane, Coleman and Shepp. In fact, after relocating 
from Atlanta to New York in 1965, his very first recording session was for Coltrane' s 
now legendary Ascension, which is often pinpointed as the moment the celebrated 


saxophonist emerged as the avant-garde spiritual leader. The other two saxophonists 
Coltrane brought in to help inspire his own sound in new, fresh directions, Shepp and 
Pharoah Sanders, went on to well-revered careers, but Brown, though he recorded a 
number of respected albums over the last forty years (nonetheless for the likes of 
Impulse!, ESP, ECM, Fontana, Freedom and Black Lion), has remained thoroughly under 
the radar. Would I have ever imagined Warn Defever' s genre-defying indie-pop outfit 
His Name is Alive to be the group to pay proper respects to Brown? No, but Defever is 
an underappreciated musician and composer in his own right, so perhaps it is only proper. 

For the last seventeen years, Defever has been experimenting with His Name is 
Alive' s dream-pop sound, from the found sound and tape loop obsessed 1990-debut 
Livonia to last September' sXmmer, in which the band explores a myriad of styles from 
Afro-pop to folk that shimmer with pristine production. No matter his stylistic interest of 
the moment, Defever' s music in any of its concoctions is underpinned by the 
experimental and spiritual aesthetic established by Brown's mid-60s jazz scene. Music 
should never be paint-by-numbers or intently confined to a specific genre's framework to 
express an idea; it should be the artist's expression of feeling regardless of predetermined 
principles, melodic, atonal or otherwise. Maybe Defever is inspired by Brown's particular 
idiom in the same way Coltrane was back in '65 and set out to use this vernacular to push 
his own musical expression in new directions. Or perhaps he is just a fan who wanted to 
bring attention to the overlooked saxophonist. Either way, Sweet Earth Flower is one of 
the most inspired and interesting albums I have heard all year. 

Originally intended as a one-off concert at the University of Michigan Art 
Museum to pay tribute to Brown, the success of the evening sparked follow-up recording 
sessions from the talented ensemble. Including members of NOMO and Antibalas, this 
concoction of His Name is Alive pulls songs from both Brown's initial mid-60s period 
including cuts from 1965' s Marion Brown Quartet on ESP and 1966's Juba-Lee on 
Fontana along with his mid-70s reemergence on Impulse! after relocating to Europe, 
including '73 's Geechee Recollections, '74' s Sweet Earth Flying and '75's Vista. Three 
of the eight tracks are from the original concert, while the other five tracks include two 
studio renditions of the live tracks and three other interpretations from the nine-piece band. 

The music is that of delicately toned, almost ambient-leaning non-linear jazz. The 
players mesh seamlessly: Defever' s guitar work rarely takes spotlight (nor does any 
instrument really), restraining instead to a barrage of differently approached ostinatos or 
hypnotic chords; Defever, Elliot Bergman and Erik Hall's electric and acoustic keys paint 
lush, detailed and poignant images with their sensual melodic improvisations; tenor 
saxophonist Bergman, trumpeter Justin Walter and alto saxophonist Michael Herbst 
accentuate and solo with subtlety, driving each track with modality akin to the more 
reflective and melodic moments between Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry; double 
bassist Jamie Satlsman acts as a strong anchor helping retain rhythmic structure whenever 
the other players sidestep to the outside; and percussionists Jamie Easter, Dan Piccolo 
and Olman Piedra jump from more pulsing rhythms to ambient hand-percussion 
accentuation with ease, tying elements of free jazz, African and Latin music into one 
vibe. Their recreation of Brown's sound is that of spiritual reflection, sensual exploration 
and earthy provocation. It shimmers and drones, rouses and soothes. It's meditative 
music you can get lost in without ever actually feeling lost, and that may be the best 
compliment I can pay it. 


Marion Brown is still alive and gave his blessing to Defever to pursue this project. 
Due to his deteriorating health, Brown spends most of his time now teaching, and not 
advance classes in the detailed improvisation he is most known for, but mostly to 
children and amateur musicians on the art of musical self-exploration, instrument creation 
and the innate boundary-less nature of music. As Sweet Earth Flower displays, Brown 
doesn't just teach in the classroom; his recorded output inspires and influences similar- 
minded artists like Defever to produce music just as warm, cerebral and passionate. It's 
avant-garde jazz where the soulfulness is not lost in the intention to explore the outside. 
It's music roaming free, where melodicism is not sacrificed for the sake of being different 
or avant-garde, but rather expressed in its unabashed warm spirit. Like the opening quote, 
both Brown and Defever reach inside and create music intuitively; they are well schooled 
in the technicalities of jazz, but express music based on feelings alone. 

(Review by Michael Ardaiolo; originally published at the blog 



spin networks 

Label: psi 

Release Date: August 2007 

Tracklist: fOKT III; Volume; Temperature; 

Solution G; Nekton; Plankton; Solution H; 

Pressure; fOKT II. 

Personnel: Furt (Richard Barret and Paul 

Obermayer): electronics; John Butcher: 

soprano and tenor saxophones; Rhodri 

Davies: Celtic and concert harps; Paul 

Lovens: percussion; Phil Minton: voice; 

Wolfgang Mitterer: prepared piano and 

electronics; Ute Wassermann: voice. 

For this double-album on Evan Parker's psi label, recorded at the 2005 New Jazz 
Meeting of the South West German Radio (SWR), Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer's 
electronic improvising duo fURT was expanded into an electro-acoustic octet, fORCH. 
The additional musicians included saxophonist John Butcher and vocalist Ute 
Wassermann, whose extraordinary range of extended techniques accounts for much of the 
music's impact. She is easily capable of moving from short bursts of luxurious, almost 
operatic lyricism, to hyperactive virtuosity, to very impolite sounding squelches, farts and 
burps; at all times a sound that is intensely physical- intimate, slightly disturbing, the sort 
of thing that might put your hairs up, but which yet manages to sound captivating rather 
than irritating. She moves the gamut from disgustingly invasive bodily presence to 
heavenly choir, seemingly at will, and when coupled with the equally exploratory Phil 
Minton, the effect is scintillating. 

Much of the music is hushed and calm, in keeping with developments towards 
quiet, with a focus on sounds and textures and the properties of sound, in electracoustic 
music. Most notable in this respect is the second track, 'Volume', where single notes and 
tones predominate, and ideas are zoomed in on for a long time before slowly changing - 
only minutely, but in a way which can change the whole texture without you noticing it. 
Transitions and ideas overlap, creating a true interaction, not just the simple call and 


response it would be tempting for improvisers to fall into, but something on a much 
deeper level (perhaps due to the compositional background of Richard Barrett). 
Furthermore, the unusual vocal sounds that the singers are capable of producing means 
that sometimes you're not sure whether the otherworldly sounds come from their mouths 
or from the electronics. The avant-garde singer's gurgles, grunts, orgasm noises, etc, have 
become cliches, but Minton and Wasserman make them new, turns their voices into 
instruments (see also Minton' s wonderful 'Slur' on Emanem records), another, merged 
part of the texture. The presence of John Butcher's saxophone, with his delicate use of 
harmonics and high pitches, is ideal for floating into the general electronic wash. 

If I have any criticisms, it's perhaps that there's too much quietude, too much 
meditative meshing, and a bit more ensemble fire music might have been welcome. That 
may be slightly unfair though - it's not all serious sound-production. On some of the 
tracks, the piano adds an anarchic, noisy, flavour, and there's a real sense of playfulness 
and humour as well, such as the brief 'duet' between female and male voice on 'Nekton', 
which sounds like a Clanger dueting with a drunk submerged underwater, or 'Solution 
G', where Wasserman (aided by electronics) manages to sound like a parrot, a bear, a zoo 
menagerie, cooing and roaring and growling away. At one point she simply breathes into 
the microphone, while behind her electronics play back her screams (sounding like a 
sound effect from the computer game Rollercoaster tycoon) and blip and blop away. The 
impression given is of bodily functions, or the sounds associated with them, gone out of 
control - this is not polite music! It's intensely physical, constantly reminding us of the 
nature of sound as human, even though it's all electronically manipulated, the human 
element is still central, albeit in a highly dramatised, uncontextualised way. At the end of 
one track, a final burst of particularly rude sounding electronic burps is followed by a 
male voice saying 'Excuse Me'! 

Needless to say, this is music that requires the listener's full attention, otherwise it 
begins to sound disjointed and dull - as with much improv, you need to pay close 
attention to the subtle shifts in mood and texture to really appreciate it, because it's not 
background noise, it's the sound of a group of musicians interacting closely with each 
other to produce unexpected and intriguing results. It's rarely dull, frequently absorbing, 
and makes you rethink ideas about melody and music, and realise that sounds can be as 
good as any conventional (or, as Derek Bailey puts it, 'exaggerated') melodies. 

I know that this particular kind of soundworld is one explored fairly frequently in 
electroacoustic music today, but I couldn't help thinking as I was listening that this re- 
invents music as it proceeds - so much that when you hear 'normal' piano notes or 
saxophone notes it's almost shocking that there are such things. fORCH completely turn 
musical language on its head, but not in an anarchic/rebellious way (the most anarchic 
sounding parts are often chord clusters or the like). Instead they make what they're doing 
a completely natural language in which to work. You come out of it with a different kind 
of high to when you're listening to McCoy Tyner or the like: there you feel elated, 
spiritually high, here you feel calmed, as if you've gone through a valuable experience 
which has taught you something about music and about humanity. Probably the best 
improv disc of 2007. 




Label: Firehouse 12 

Release Date: November 2007 

Tracklist: ! ! !; Bodies and Souls; How Long; Tag; 

Frank Sinatra; Iris; The 3/4 Tune 

Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; Brandon 

Seabrook: guitar, electronics; Tom Blancarte: bass; 

Kevin Shea: drums. 

Additional Information: Available at 

New- York based trumpeter and composer Peter Evans' second recording as a 
leader (the solo album 'More is More' came out on psi in 2006) is perhaps more 
representative of his work than his debut. A good example of where the 'inside-outside' 
approach has come in jazz today, it's fairly eclectic in its influences and approach, but 
avoids being overly cluttered, or knowingly and smugly post-modern. For the most part, 
it's possible to feel the emotion coming through, as well as to be dazzled by the 
undoubted technical mastery displayed by all four musicians- though Evans' own phrase 
"searing, intense and honest" may lead you to expect something more heart-on-sleeve 
than is actually the case. 

Compositionally, it's intriguing: a set of entirely original material, with themes 
which are spiky and vaguely reminiscent of Anthony Braxton in their astringent, highly 
rhythmic focus (Braxton's Iridium boxset is, after all, on the same label). Evans provides 
some background in his useful liner notes: "The compositions here are almost entirely 
made up of harmonic material lifted directly out of standards, but with many layers of 
melody and noise piled on top. My goal is that the familiar elements are constantly 
coming in and out of focus, creating loaded, pressurized music. The collective and 
individual improvisation on the material I've provided constitutes and second layer of 
tension; we are forcing our kinetic playing styles through the (usually very difficult) 
notation, rather than seeking a comfortable relationship with it... traditional chord 
structures, white noise, bebop licks, tape hiss and practice exercises are set in wild 
motion against each other." 

As the above quote indicates, Evans is knowledgeable, almost academic about the 
music he plays, displaying a serious (though not po-faced) approach akin to that of Dave 
Douglas, with whom he also shares certain similarities in playing style, particularly in the 
jagged, angular feel, and the instinctual searching for unusual and just slightly off-kilter 
phrases, all wrapped up within a keen structural awareness, and a sense of rigorous 
discipline. He is perhaps the more aggressive performer (due to his comparative youth?), 
and is playful with the various different generic and stylistic elements that he employs, 
but is careful never to let the music come anywhere near chaos or overkill. 


The sidemen may not have the leader's flare, but are also more than mere token 
accompanists: Brandon Seabrook's guitar and occasional electronics add a more noisy, 
modern touch, yet manage not to seem too incongruous alongside the elements of jazz 
tradition, while the drumming of Kevin Shea (who plays with Evans' in the raucous, 
revisionist band Mostly Other People do the Killing) is busy but not overly cluttered. Not 
forgetting the other member of the quartet, Tom Blancarte's bass is capable of both 
giving the music a firm, jazzy (but not old-fashioned) foundation, and venturing outwards 
during the freely improvised sections (listen to his woozy arco bass near the beginning of 
the second track). 

A couple of tracks strike me as highlights. 'Tag' finds Evans balancing the 
conventional vocabulary of post-bop trumpet with touches of the avant-garde. At times 
his tightly controlled virtuosity recalls the joyful abandon through discipline of 
Coltrane's work on 'Giant Steps' - at others, he settles for some insecty, tougher 
interplay with the tight rhythm section, and the modern-sounding guitar adds a wilder 
touch, more akin to contemporary 'noise music' 'Frank Sinatra' is the nearest thing to a 
ballad on the record, and finds him smearing, slurring, growling, and generally emoting 
all over his horn's register. Perhaps there's a touch of parody, too, but that doesn't preven 
the piece from being deeply felt, even if it's hard to see exactly what either the melody, 
based round a repeated figure, or the solo, has to do with Sinatra - perhaps the traces of 
fragility, a bit of the bombast, but with a good deal of the polish scraped off. After Evans' 
initial trumpet statement, the guitar solo - delivered in a harsh, snappy tone that 
nevertheless retains the semblances, or traces of Tal Farlow jazz balladry, filtered through 
an abstract spiders' web of sound and silence (awkward pauses learned from Derek 
Bailey), which then leads into more abstruse, jangly, high-pitched group speculations and 
a fade into drone. 

Whether, as Troy Collins puts it in his review of the album for the All About Jazz 
website, this album perfectly captures the Zeitgeist of the times (does jazz today have a 
Zeitgeist? Did it ever have a Zeitgeist?), it's certainly evidence of what seems to be a 
pleasing trend in jazz, seen also in the work of pianists Lafayette Gilchrist and Matthew 
Shipp: serious, modern music, played without gimmickry, clever but not overly dry; 
thoughtful, considered, yet with freedom for the unplanned and the unexpected. 


ro be rt wy at t 


Label: Domino Records 
Release Date: October 2007 

Tracklist: Act One (Lost in Noise): Stay Tuned; Just 
as You Are; You You; A.W.O.L.; Anachronist. 
Act Two (The Here and Now): A Beautiful Peace; Be 
Serious; On the Town Square; Mob Rule; A 
Beautiful War; Out of the Blue. Act Three (Away 
with the Fairies): Del Mondo; Cancion de Julieta; 
Pastafari; Fragment; Hasta Siempre Comandante. 
Personnel: Robert Wyatt: voice, piano, percussion, 
trumpet, cornet, old metronome, keyboard, 
karenotron (voice of Karen Mantler), Enotron (voice 
of Brian Eno), pocket trumpet, monicatron (voice of 
Monica Vasconcelos)); Brian Eno: keyboard, 
keyboard bass, effects; Seaming To Voice: clarinet; 


Annie Whitehead: trombone, baritone horn; Yaron Stavi, Chucho Merchan: bass violin; Monica 
Vasconcelos: voice; Paul Weller: guitar; Gilad Atzmon: saxophones, clarinet; Jamie Johnson: bass guitar, 
electrical interference; David Sinclair: piano; Phil Manzanera: guitar; Del Bartle: guitar; Orphy Robinson: 
steel pan, vibraphone; Alfie Benge: voice; Beverley Chadwick: baritone saxophone; Maurizio Camardi: 
saxophones; Alfonso Santimone: piano, keyboards ; Alessandro Fedrigo: bass guitar; Paolo Vidaich: 
percussion; Gianni Bertoncini: drums. 

Four years on from 'Cuckooland', and Wyatt's latest solo album is named as 
record of the year by The Wire magazine. What difference have the intervening years 
made? It finds him assembling what is probably his largest cast to date, but he doesn't go 
overboard with any of the arrangements, and it retains the intimate feel familiar from the 
rest of his solo output. His voice is still the main focus, and, while the man himself claims 
that it's become reduced to "an old wino's mutter," it's obvious from the start that this is 
hardly the case - and even if it is, it's a very beguiling mutter! 

This is an album that in several ways comes out of a sense of crisis, and 
documents Wyatt's attempts to recover from this: most significantly, the near-breakdown 
of his relationship with his wife, as a result of his drinking. A song like 'Just as You Are', 
about the acceptance of your partner despite all their foibles, represents the reconciliation, 
and, while the lyrics seem to approach the standardized sentiment of conventional pop 
song territory, you know that Wyatt wouldn't be singing them unless he had lived them, 
unless they were justified by personal experience: he delivers them with the utmost 

The album's 16 tracks are divided into 3 'acts', though Wyatt hasn't actually 
written a bona-fide opera: these are still 3 or 4 minute pop songs. He gives a concise 
explanation of the album's unusual structure in an interview with 
according to him, Act 1, Lost In Noise, "is about loss and relationships." Act 2, The Here 
And Now, is "about things I like, don't like, don't understand". Act 3, Away With The 
Fairies "is, you know what? I'm fed up with English speaking people. I'm going to go 
away with the fairies. . .It's to do with feeling completely alienated from Anglo-American 
culture at that point. Just sort of being silent as an English-speaking person, because of 
this fucking war [in Iraq]. The last thing I sing in English is 'you've planted all your 
everlasting hatred in my heart.' I then wander off round the world searching for different 
kinds of meaning - whether it's avant-garde, or revolution, or surrealist fantasy, or 
religion, or all those things. I sing in Italian and I do a bit of surrealism, free 
improvisation ['Pastafari'], and end up with a romantic revolutionary song of the '60s, a 
hymn to Che Guevara. Just to say, that's my generation, the kind of hope that kept us 
going. I'm not saying it worked or didn't, but without these little dreams and hopes, I 
couldn't survive." 

A somewhat bitter thematic undercurrent, then: as Wyatt explains, the 'comic' in 
the album title doesn't mean 'funny': "Greeks divided things into Comedy and Tragedy, 
and Comedy didn't mean funny, it meant just, 'about human foibles', as opposed to 
tragedy which is about Gods and Destiny. So this is about human foibles." It's not a 
depressing affair, though - indeed, when Wyatt deals with his wider political concerns 
(albeit in an oblique way), on songs like 'A Beautiful War' or 'Out of the Blue,' it's easy 
to miss the harshness and bite in the lyrics due to their meltingly wonderful melodies. 
This can be construed as a problem, or not, depending on your viewpoint; speaking for 
myself, I've always tended to prefer his less ambitious pieces: the love songs, the quirky 
nonsense-rhymes (although of course, he's always been good at fusing the political and 

the personal, as with 'Shipbuilding'). Thus, I find it easier to chime into the sentiments of 
'Just as You Are', or 'A.W.O.L.', a moving song about a woman with Alzheimer's sitting 
in her attic, alone with "the tick and the tock of the damnable clock". 

Whether, in the end, Wyatt finds transcendence, or escape, or whatever it is he's 
seeking, is unclear - and if he does, it's never going to be unequivocal, but complex, 
tinged with wistfulness and whimsy. Thus, the concluding track is a 1960s romantic song 
about Che Guevara: a look back to an idealized heyday, when such ideals were more 
commonplace, and an attempt to find solace in them, it would seem. It does lighten the 
mood somewhat, its mid section riding on a joyous Latin groove, but it never really feels 
triumphant, or indeed, conclusive. Yet I wouldn't have it any other way: Wyatt doesn't 
do straightforwardly 'happy' music, and there's no reason he should. Long may it 

OTHER CD REVIEWS (Alphabetical) 


Release Date: April 2007 

Label: Thrill Jockey 

Tracklist: Planet E; Strut Time; For Brother Thompson; From the Paver to the Ocean; Sakti/Shiva 

Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Jeff Parker: guitar (1,2,4); Harrison Bankhead: cello (2), 

piano (3), bass (1,4); Josh Abrams: bass (1-3), guimbiri (4,5); Hamid Drake: drums, frame drum (4). 


Fred Anderson is a legendary figure, at least in Chicago - a founder member of 
the AACM, founder of the Velvet Lounge, and an octogenerian who's still performing at 
a high level of intensity. He's always been seen as an avant-garde player, but, from my 
experience of his music, he's far more 'straightahead' than his reputation would suggest; 
as one critic puts it, the most 'inside' of the 'outside' players. Nothing wrong with that, 
yet he does tend to meander somewhat, and I do feel that he lacks the real fire found in 
other free players. I know that's not what he's trying for: what he's after is more 
insuniating, more bluesy, muscular yet traditional, dense yet clear. I should like this 
approach, yet I somehow just don't get along with it. One gripe I have is that 
one phrase - a high note followed by a twiddling flurry of lower notes - seems to appear, 
in modified form, in every bar of every solo on every song that he ever plays. It's as if 
he's perpetually playing variations on one melody. In some this is fascinating, but it can 
soon become rather boring, and somewhat restrictive. Even more so than usual, I feel that 
there's something missing here, and the record is ultimately rather a disappointment. 

The guitar sound is a major part of this - it's just too 'polite' for my tastes, though 
it's very competently done. But it feels curiously old-fashioned, as if Kenny Burrell was 
jamming with some free players, and it sits none too well in the mix. In particular, it jars 
with the textures created by the rhythm section switching between various exotic 
instruments; indeed, despite the present of two bassists, there's only actually one track 
where they play together. 

Harrison Bankhead shows his versatility by playing cello and some remarkably 
skilled piano, on 'For Brother Thompson', perhaps the best track, which opens with some 
Arabic chanting from a la Don Cherry, before emerging into an atmosphere very 
reminiscent of mid-60s Coltrane - a rubato ballad, full of pounding drums, arco bass, 
tremulous, deep-voiced, ominous piano and solemnly intoned tenor (though Anderson is 
his own man, and manages to prevent the track from becoming too derivative). 

Hamid Drake has demonstrated his versatility by appearing on several very 
different releases this year: world music duets with William Parker, finding both on 
various shankucahis and what not; keeping jazz time in Parker's Raining on the Moon 
quintet; engaging in interplay alternately sparkling and monumental with gifted young 
pianist Lafayette Gilchrist on an album of that most difficult of groupings, piano and 
drum, duets recorded at the Vision Festival in 2006. Here, despite the joint top-billing, he 
tends to slip into the background - which is not necessarily a bad thing. One thing you 
could not accuse him of is being showy, despite his undoubted talent. When he does take 
a solo, it's refreshingly patient, as he builds up by playing the drums, rather than resorting 
to cymbal crashes (which has become something of a cliche of free jazz drumming). This 
desire to build from the bottom up, from bass and blues and roots to a more considered 
kind of free summit is admirable, but it does make the album feel at a times rather too 
tame - one can't help wishing that they would break out just a little bit more. 

(On a final, more positive note, plaudits for the exceedingly well-designed cover: 
I suppose you could call it minimalist, in that there's very little in the frame, and there are 
only three colours employed. Very striking however you define it.) 
(Review by David Grundy) 



Label: Justin Time Records 

Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: Silent Observation; Nothing But 

Love; Dark Silhouette; At Play In the Fields of 

the Lord 

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Frank Lowe: 

tenor sax; Andrew Bemkey: piano; Todd 

Nicholson: bass 

Not something that's likely to make 
much of a splash, or be noticed by 
mainstream or even specialist press, 
this is nonetheless a record well worth 
hearing, if only for its historical value. 
Recorded back in 2003, it sees Billy 
Bang continue his recent projects 
exploring the music of Vietnam, and exploring his military service there in the 60s. Also 
in Vietnam at the time was the guest on this date, Frank Lowe, whose last recorded 
appearance this was. At the time of this live concert, he was playing with only one lung 
(he would die of cancer just five months later); as Bang explains, he got so out of breath 
at the end of gig that the promoter wanted to call an ambulance. 

The relationship between Bang and Lowe lasted for more than twenty-five years: 
in their earliest collaborations, both men burned equally hot from opposite ends of the 
spectrum, Billy's violin soaring in lines of white-hot intensity, and Frank's tenor sax 
blazing with confrontational abandon. Over the years, each man moved closer to the 
other's approach, without diminishing the fire and energy of their shared visions. 

Here, Bang's debt to swing master Stuff Smith is felt in his lightning runs, and 
Lowe's solos, with their occasional atonal interjections, capture the spirit of the 1960s 
'New Thing,' although his style had evolved away from the fire-breathing of his youth to 
prettier, pithier mutterings (notably on the warm, burnished 'Nothing But Love') that 
perfectly complement Bang's staccato solos and rhythmically expansive melodies. But 
it's perhaps when the quartet comes together, whether drawing on the modal style of John 
Coltrane or the folk-melodic music of South Africa, that the music makes its strongest 
mark: the tracks are long and often luxuriant, giving the music time to breathe and 
develop collectively as well as to build in soloistic intensity. 

On The opening 'Silent Observation,' Lowe and Bang take a quick unison turn 
through the main theme before Lowe splits off to build a long solo that slowly builds in 
intensity, employing sounds that manage to span an almost Paul Desmond-like hush all 
the way to some upper register squeals. Bang is certainly Lowe's equal here, taking a solo 
that almost comes apart at the seams with its ferocity. 

The closing 'At Play In The Fields Of The Lord' can be heard as Silent 
Observation's companion piece. With somewhat similar tempos and harmonic 
development, the two compositions are fine and inspiring examples of what this pair 


could do, not only on that night but on their many previous collaborations. 

It's 'Dark Silhouette' that's the centrepiece of this concert, though. Pianist Andrew 
Bemkey ratchets up the tension by beginning with a lengthy (five minutes or so) solo 
section that at points heads into Cecil Taylor territory. This gives way to the snakey 
theme layed down by bassist Todd Nicholson before Bang launches his elegant and 
bluesy solo. Lowe runs with that motif but soon leaps into the land of extended technique 
with interval jumps, more upper register righteousness, and even some textured valve 

The release of this album is the result of a pact that the Bang and Lowe made 
when Frank was on his deathbed in September of 2003. His last wish was for Billy to 
make sure that this music would become available to the public, and here it is. A fitting 
tribute. (Review by David Grundy) 


Label: B Flat Recordings 
Release Date: April 2007 
Tracklist: Shafaa; Si tout ceci n'est qu'un pauvre 
reve; Apres le jeu; Influence; Orgatique; An 
Afternoon In Chatanooga; Suite Overtime - Part 
I (Morning); Suite Overtime - Part II 
(Metaphor); Suite Overtime - Part III (Iqbal); 
Suite Overtime - Part IV (Brother Mm); Le 

Personnel: Yusef Lateef: tenor sax, various 
flutes, oboe; Lionel Belmondo: tenor & soprano 
sax. flute, clarinet, percussion; Stephane 
Belmondo: trumpet, Flugelhorn. shell, 
percussion; Glemi Ferris: trombone on 2 nd disc; 
Ensemble consisting of French horn, tuba and 
various woodwinds, piano, bass and drums. 

I wonder how many jazz fans will have overlooked this recording by the then 84 
year old multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef backed by an ensemble led directed by two 
French brothers who still remain pretty unknown in the UK? 

Until I had the good fortune to see this group play live at the Vienne Jazz Festival 
last year, I too might have passed this double CD by. However, now available on this side 
of the Channel, this is a record for which I have unbounded enthusiasm and I would urge 
anyone who is a fan of the writing of the likes of Gil Evans or Mike Gibbs to seek out 
this offering. 

Beautifully recorded, this ensemble borrows heavily from the French 
Impressionist composers of the early 20 th Century who have had an overwhelming 
influence on jazz ever since the days of Bix Beiderbecke. The two discs are largely made 
up of arrangements of compositions by Yusef Lateef plus an adaptation of the tragic Lili 
Boulanger's "Si tout ceci n'est qu'un pauvre reve" and the transformation of a theme for 
organ by the little known composer Charles Tournemire by arranger Christophe Dal 
Sasso into a piece called "Apres Le Jeu." The former is almost transformed into a blues 
whilst the attractive theme of the latter is one of the highlights of this recording, being 


exquisitely scored for this chamber ensemble. This is not, however, to suggest that the 
music lacks an edge as the influence of music from the East (whether through the themes, 
Lateef s choice of various ethnic reed instruments or the exotic percussion) balances the 
classical feel of this group. It is demonstrably jazz what is being played here. 

The second disc consists totally of Lateef originals starting with the mournful 
"Afternoon in Chatanooga." that evokes the likes of Gil Evans' work on recordings such 
as "The Barbara Story." Two thirds of the second disc is made up of Lateef s wonderful 
"Suite Overtime" with the opening "Morning" resembling those finger-snapping mid- 
tempo blues that the Ellington band would play in the 1950's - here the groove is laid 
down by Dre Pallemaerts' drumming as opposed to Sam Woodyard. Ex-pat American 
Glenn Ferris lays down a fruity trombone solo. It is great to hear him playing in the 
context of this group and yet another example of a musician denied the recognition he 
deserves by the jazz audience. The influence of the Duke is again felt on "Metaphor", the 
oriental- sounding opening making way for the lop-sided Latin feel behind the main 
theme that is familiar from albums such as "Afro-Bossa." Lateef s lithe flute solo throws 
in a quote from Gerswhin's "Summertime" and following a solo by the bassist, Stephane 
Belmondo contributes a boppish trumpet outing. "Iqbal" brings the tempo down several 
pegs before the suite closes with an up-tempo tribute to John Coltrane that yet again 
recall's Gil Evans' work from the mid- 1 960' s when the Canadian arranger started to 
explore modal jazz. Lionel Belmondo' s soprano is given full reign on the latter 
composition and Ferris again coaxes multi-phonic' s from his horn. The whole project 
concludes with the Lateef composition "Le jardin" which is totally scored. 

I would strongly urge that anyone who either considers Europe to be a backwater 
of jazz or a land where the ECM's worthy yet frequently monochrome efforts rule 
supreme should check out this record. Not only does it offer evidence of Dr. Yusef Lateef 
as a great writer in addition to the masterful soloist he has been known to be for over fifty 
years, but it illustrates that in the Belmondo brothers and arranger Christophe Del Sasso, 
France have musicians of world class stature. This gets my vote as perhaps the best new 
jazz CD of 2007. 
(Review by Ian Thumwood) 

By David Grundy 

Han Bennink was a busy man last year. At the 
age of 65, he showed no sign of stopping - if 
anything, he's got even more manic and 
furiously active in his playing. He appears on 
the following 2007 releases (see next page), in 
a large variety of different contexts, 
displaying both his adaptability, enormous 
energy (both in his playing and the amount of 
different projects he plays on), and also his 
ability to retain an individuality that means he 
really couldn't be anyone else. 


The Blueprint Project with Han Bennink - People I like; 
Daniele D'Agaro Adriatics Orchestra - Comeglians; 
Ammii Quartett - Self-titled; 
Terrie Ex/Bennink - Zeng! (guitar/drum duo); 
Mohammed 'Jimmy' Mohammed - Takkabel! 

This individuality is partly due to his stage shenanigans, such as playing only a 
cymbal for an entire concert, throwing a cymbal out onto stage to announce his entrance 
behind Arthur Doyle, playing a drum set made of cheese, and playing his kit (and the 
floor) with a large broom. As the biography on his official website puts it, "His first 
percussion instrument was a kitchen chair. Later his father, an orchestra percussionist, 
supplied him with a more conventional outfit, but Han never lost his taste for coaxing 
sounds from unlikely objects he finds backstage at concerts. He is still very fond of 
playing chairs." 

His sculptures, like his playing, show an anarchic, sometimes crude sense of 
humour, combined with a serious artistic intent. Like his frequent collaborator Peter 
Brotzmann, he makes music that's hard-driving, aggressive, and profoundly liberating, 
perhaps (and it's an over-used word), cathartic - but he is capable of being subtle as well, 
not just the macho posturer that some critics would make him out to be. 

And so it seems an appropriate time to have a look at a couple of his albums, old 
and new, which illustrate all the virtues described above. . . . 

By Seth Watter 

Han Bennink: virtuoso drummer, Euro-jazz legend and (sometimes) madman. 
Looking at his discography, it becomes apparent that the Amsterdam-born percussionist 
has performed far too seldom as a leader. Perhaps it's typical to look at an artist in terms 
of his first and last works, but in Bennink' s case those two recordings happen to be two 
of his best and, ironically, two of his hardest to find. Without further ado, it is my 
pleasure to present Nerve Beats and Amplified Trio. 


Label: Atavistic 

Release Date: September 2000 

Tracklist: Bumble Rumble; Spooky Drums; Nerve Beats. 

Personnel: Han Bennink : drums, rhythm machine, tablas. 

percussion, trombone, clarinet, voice, miscellaneous other 


Additional Information: Recorded live at Rathaus. Bremen, 

Germany on September 27, 1973; originally released 1973. 

Nerve Beats was unearthed by Atavistic in 2000 as part of their Unheard Music 
series and is Han Bennink' s first extant solo recording. Recorded in 1973 for Germany's 


Radio Bremen, it comes from the same era as Peter Brotzmann's Live in Berlin '71: a 
quartet date on which Bennink, at certain points during that historic concert, revealed 
himself to be a chameleon with a massive setup composed not only of drums but of 
exotic percussive and wind instruments, along with what the liner notes could only 
describe as tins and home-made junk. Two years later, Bennink was still exploring these 
eclectic rhythmic forms that had their roots in the musics of India and Africa, adapting 
them to the spirit of free music as it was being created by a group of audacious pan- 
European youngsters. Many have commented on Bennink' s ability to play quite freely as 
well as within the confines of tradition, straddling jazz's old school and its vanguard with 
equal conviction. "Bumble Rumble" attests to this, with its fluid, militaristic drum rolls 
interlocking with Bennink' s whistling to create an anthemic overture, telling the audience 
to make way for the emperor's arrival. At three minutes, it's concise, engaging, and 
entirely unlike what is to follow on the two lengthy tracks that make up the bulk of the 

That said, "Spooky Drums" is pure cacophony. Amid a wave of cymbal crashes 
and furious torn rolls, Bennink spits out volcanic gibberish to his audience's delight. The 
growls, howls and spluttering outbursts weave in and out of his rhythms, beginning at the 
point where the other ends and vice versa. When Bennink picks up a trombone or a 
clarinet, or one of the other odd items he inevitably has lying around onstage, he plays 
them with outrageous multiphonic effects, sounding like a Tuvan throat singer crying 
from the belly of a brass prison. And when he mixes the delicate sound of musical pipes 
with the thundering punctuations of his drumkit, it sounds like the most natural thing in 
the world. It is no exaggeration to say that "Spooky Drums" pushes jazz's rhythmic 
possibilities to their absolute limit. This is the sound of a man becoming his drum. We're 
exhausted from the sheer physicality of it all, but by the time we reach the climactic 
series of wonderfully muffled snare hits and tittering cymbals, we're only ten minutes 
inside the beast! There is yet to follow Bennink' s experiments with pre-recorded 
orchestral music, drum machines, marimbas, tablas, music boxes, and whatever else is in 

The pre-programmed loops that introduce "Nerve Beats" may lead unsuspecting 
listeners to assume that this is a leftover from the concurrent German electronic/new 
wave scene. But the dissonant clarinet that hovers throughout the mix makes it obvious 
that we're in a very different realm, somewhere between Stockhausen, free jazz, and 
multi-idiomatic world music. His cymbals ring like alarm clocks, his trombone like 
Martian war calls. If "Spooky Drums" is an epic journey, "Nerve Beats" is a cartoon 
soundtrack. Who is this man who plays 5,000 instruments and then deems it appropriate 
to scream at the top of his lungs? Is he angry or joyful? 

The audience's nervous laughter at each of Bennink' s outbursts suggests that they 
may have asked themselves similar questions. Indeed, this isn't the pure rage of 
Brotzmann's Machine Gun; anyone who listens to that album knows what kind of 
emotions lie behind it. Machine Gun was a collective call to revolt. Nerve Beats, on the 
other hand, is a defiantly individualistic approach to improvised music that is all the 
richer for its humour. The only thing of stability is Bennink' s distinctive roar: a scream 
which, every time it appears, draws the entirety of its universe into a black hole from 
which it emerges purified once more. 



Label: Treader 

Release Date: July 2007 

Tracklist: At 1; At 2; At 3; At 4; At 5; At 6; At 7 

Personnel: Han Bennink: drums, percussion; John Coxon: 

electric guitar; Ashley Wales: electronics. 

Additional Information: Recorded live in South London on 

January 21, 2006. Part of 'Series 3' of releases on the Treader 

label - the other albums are 'Abbey Road Duos' by Evan 

Parker/Matthew Sliipp and 'Brooklyn Duos' by John 

Coxon/Wadada Leo Smith. They can be purchased from the 

Treader website: http ://www. treader. org/ . 

A whirlwind of percussion, acid-fried guitar, electronics that sound like an animal 
in its death throes - Bennink' s Amplified Trio comes out the door with both fists 
swinging. Matched with the duo behind Spring Heel Jack - guitarist John Coxon and 
sound artist Ashley Wales - the veteran improviser pushes new territory with this striking 
mixture of free jazz and electronics. The release places itself in an exciting new trend 
within free music that has its forebears in Trio x 3's New Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 
(Hat, 2003) and the Muhal Abrams/Roscoe Mitchell/George Lewis album Streaming (Pi, 
2006). Okay, so perhaps it's not so radical - Don Cherry, George Lewis, and Freddie 
Hubbard were doing this kind of thing years ago. But the electro-acoustic idiom has 
moved beyond the experiments of a few eccentrics to become the playground of many 
eccentrics. Recorded live in South London on January 21, 2006, Amplified Trio is notable 
for abandoning the delicacy of these prior endeavors in favor of sheer volume, taking the 
new hybrid form a step backward into the world of an ESP blowout. 

What I find so remarkable about groups like this is the way that each instrument 
blends into its peers, no matter how disparate they are in sound. Amplified Trio has it a bit 
easier, since Coxon' s distorted guitar isn't too far from Wales' array of electronic 
manipulations. The first of these seven untitled tracks is the longest and most brutal - 
even its quietest moments are filled with abrasive and unsettling overtones. After fifteen 
minutes of dense improvisation, the band hits something akin to a stride with oscillating 
tones that provide the backbeat for the spiraling fury of the drums and guitar. Bennink 
sounds fantastic as usual, moving across a variety of rhythmic styles with grace and ease; 
Coxon provides plenty of squall with his energetic fusion of Jimi Hendrix and Derek 
Bailey; and Wales is particularly crucial with his subtle loops and washes of sound. 
Oddly enough, the first track ends with the noise of the ocean, suggesting that what lies 
beneath is a substructure both placid and filled with the tumult of undulating waves. 

The rest of Amplified Trio is understandably more subdued. The third track even 
finds Bennink abandoning his drumset in favor of ratchety, guiro-like percussion, 
interacting with Wales' electronic stutters and butchered vocal samples. The three create 
a music that is unpredictable, yet deliberate and logical in its own way; in these moments, 
the trio comes closer to a piece by Francois Bayle or Walter Ruttman than anything 
related to jazz. Bennink, however, can't help but swing - and his restless drumming soon 
leads the group back into the white heat of free improvisation. Bennink' s early work 
experimented with electronic looping as early as 1973's Nerve Beats, and one can hear its 


seeds coming to fruition on Amplified Trio. One can also hear his sound being transferred 
to Wales' sonic collages and Coxon's feedback-drenched excursions, imbued as they are 
with a vocal quality: a desperate scream that has always made itself felt in the drummer's 

"At 4" is more in line with Spring Heel Jack's oeuvre, all ambient drones and 
elliptical guitar scrapes barely bubbling across the surface. Bennink shatters the calm 
with a well-placed cymbal crash, each subsequent hit of the kit taking on the quality of an 
eruption. The three improvisers crackle and spit fire at every turn. John Coxon sounds 
alternately like fireworks and a broken carburetor, Wales swaps Nintendo belches for 
twittering sine waves and orchestral excerpts. The two adroitly follow their leader, that 
Dutch maverick whose muscular beats propel the session into such brilliant territory. 
Even the two-minute "At 6" is as bewitching and beguiling as anything else on the 
album, refusing cohesion amid a stream of marching beats, guitar grime and knotty 
clarinet samples. In this realm beyond syntax, Bennink' s rhythms tap into a language that 
speaks but does not inform, that calls without regard for its listener, that doubles back on 
its own communicative poverty. Amplified Trio is the beauty of a voice arrested mid- 
flight. Let's stop and take a look at that one again. 

(Review by Seth Watter. More of Seth's writing can be found at his blog, 'Meshes of the Afternoon' - 


Label: Blue Note 
Release Date: August 2007 
Tracklist: Ghosts of Congo Square; Levees; 
Wading Through ; Ashe; In Time of Need; 
Ghost of Betsy; The Water; Mantra Intro; 
Mantra; Over There; Ghost of 1927; Funeral 
Dirge; Dear Mom 

Personnel: Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Brice 
Winston: tenor and soprano saxophones; Aaron 
Parks: piano; Derrick Hodge: acoustic and 
electric basses; Zach Harmon: tabla and the 
happy apple; The Northwest Sinfonia, 
conducted by Terence Blanchard; Simon James: 
contractor and concertmaster 

Emerging along with Wynton Marsalis and Donald Harrison as one of the 'Young 
Lions' of 80s New Orleans jazz, Terence Blanchard has since developed into a mature 
trumpeter and composer. His latest release, A Tale of God's Will, is the product of his 
long-standing relationship with filmmaker Spike Lee: all of the music contained is either 
part of or associated with the soundtrack to Lee's 2006 HBO documentary When The 
Levees Broke. The members of Blanchard's quintet contribute significantly to 
proceedings, both in terms of composition and performance, and the group is often 
supported by Blanchard's rich string arrangements played by The Northwest Sinfonia. 

In keeping with Lee's film, the personal experiences of the disaster as well as 
references to New Orleans' musical past provide an important basis for the album. The 
music itself tends towards dark, dramatic palettes, although there are a few brighter 


interludes - drummer Kendrick Scott's extended piece "Mantra" with Blanchard's 
passionate yet elegant solos stands out in particular. The use of Indian tablas may strike 
some as incongruous, on an album that seeks to stress African roots ("Ghosts of Congo 
Square"), but this is a very minor quibble, and ends up being only a problem 
conceptually. In fact, the tablas add a much needed rhythmic propulsion to the music, 
thus preventing it from becoming too stodgy in its sombreness. 

While the album lacks a certain amount of coherence owing to its origins as a film 
score and although a few sections, particularly the string arrangements, sound rather 
produced, it is nevertheless a compelling film score which will probably appeal to 
soundtrack fans just as much, if not more so, than jazz fans. 
(Review by Noa Corcoran-Tadd) 





Label: ECM 

Release Date: October 2007 

Track listing: One Banana; Two Banana; 

Three Banana; Four; Five Banana; One 

Banana More; Liver of Life; Death of 

Superman/Dream Sequence #1 --Flying; Ad 


Personnel: Paolo Fresu: trampet, flugelhorn; 

Andy Sheppard: soprano and tenor 

saxophones; Carla Bley: piano; Steve 

Swallow: bass guitar; Billy Drummond: drains 

This album finds Carla Bley in more intimate mode than her more familiar big 
band music, working with this very fine small group (their previous release, simply titled 
'The Lost Chords', is well worth investigating), to which is added the Italian trumpeter 
Paolo Fresu. He's not really known outside of Italy (though he does play with the Italian 
Instabile Orchestra), so his contribution is a pleasant discovery. It may come as 
something of a surprise that he was Andy Sheppard' s choice for the project - Bley asked 
him to name someone he would like to play with, and he mentioned Fresu. It was 
probably something of a surprise to the other musicians as well - Bley apparently 
respects Sheppard's taste so much that she invited Fresu along without even having heard 
his playing. 

So the music itself. Despite the jokey track titles (one banana... two banana. .. .three 
banana... four.... five banana.... one banana more - geddit?) and liner notes (some of the 
most refreshing and entertaining I've read for a while actually - humour is a lost art in the 
jazz world, it sometimes seems - although they don't really tell you anything about the 
music) this isn't about in-your-face exuberance. Instead it's thoughtful, though by no 
means soporific jazz - well played, perhaps lacking that killer spark that characterises 
Bley's best works, but a very solid record. Andy Shephard plays some excellent stuff 


(reminding people of what a good player he can be, when he's not noodling around in 
world- fusion mode with Joanna MacGregor - work that shows off the best sides of 
neither artist); Fresu is attractive; Drummond unobtrusive; and Swallow a model of 
elegance and subdued romanticism. 

There's often a sense of natural climax - the music rises and falls very smoothly, 
building up to moments of greater passion by a process of slow-burn, rather than taking a 
short cut straight to the fire. Thus, when the players do stretch out a little more, it feels 
pleasingly intense (more intense that it actually is, in all probability). Overall, though, the 
thing you're must likely to remember is a pleasing vein of something that I wouldn't quite 
call melancholy: perhaps thoughtfulness would be a better word (though 'Four' has a 
somewhat funereal, mournful feel, with Bley's minor chords ascending and descending 
under Fresu's trumpet solo). 

Bley's compositions and piano-playing are so subdued that they could be 
criticised as almost dry - there seems to be a deliberate avoidance of emotion, leaving it 
up to the horn players to provide a bit more of a spark. The biggest influence seems to be 
afilm-noir feel, although classical music plays a part as well: the short 'One banana 
more' carries an apparent echo of Pachabel's famous 'Canon' in its melodic line. 

'Death of a Superman' is, in fact, the first movement in a suite Bley was 
commissioned to write in memory of actor Christopher Reeve (who, of course, played 
that famous character in a number of films during the 70s and 80s). The suite was never 
completed, but this excerpt stands out as probably one of the best tracks on the record. It 
begins with Swallow's gentle solo, using a technique he's developed over the past thirty 
years or so, whereby he plays the electric bass as if it were a classical guitar: firmly in the 
upper register of the instrument, a beautiful plucked sound. Underpinning this are Bley's 
piano chords which echo Satie's Gymnopodies in their atmosphere of languorous, 
luxurious inscrutability - sensuous but cold, if that isn't too much of a paradox. Fresu's 
muted trumpet shows a heavy Miles Davis influence, as one might expect - in particular, 
he employs a little upward sweeping phrase that he is very similar to something Miles 
used to play - but he clearly has his own style. A particular endearing trick is his 
employment of a little tongued, repeated phrase - almost march-like, with a bouncing, 
jumping feel, it gives his solos a bit of a lift, and prevents them from descending too far 
into the navel-gazing that Tomasz Stanko fell into on his 'Suspended Night' album a few 
years back. 

Finally, for a bit of contrast, the last track, 'Ad infinitum', sees Shepherd gets to 
let rip a bit (though the mood never really rises above boiling temperature), before 
riding a groove until the end. 

So, then: this is quite considered music. The players don't play flurries of notes - 
they pick and choose them with care - and it manages to steer a steady course between 
being overly cerebral and overly introverted and pretty. Fair to say, I think, that's it's one 
of those mellow, 'chilling-with-a-glass-of-wine' records - but that's not implying any 
disrespect. It's warm and pleasant, fits round your ears like a glove, won't frighten the 
horses, but is by no means devoid of inspiration or adventure. Not as soporific as I feel a 
lot of ECM can get, and likely to give you a feeling of warm satisfaction after listening to 
it. Recommended. (Review by David Grundy) 



Label: ECM 

Release Date: August 2007 
Tracklist: Mondsee Variations I-X 
Personnel: Paul Bley: piano 

Paul Bley 


Onto another released by a piano-playing Bley on ECM - this time, Paul, who 
was, of course, at one time romantically attached to Carla. Since then, though, they've 
gone their separate ways, romantically and musically. Released in time for his 75 th 
birthday, in Autumn 2007, this is only his second solo album on ECM, and can thus be 
seen as something of a sequel to 1972's classic 'Open to Love.' In the interim, of course, 
he's become known as a superb solo improviser, releasing albums on other labels, but 
this release obviously has a special historical resonance about it. During his career, I can't 
help thinking that he's been rather an underappreciated musician - someone you know is 
there, and you know is good, but who never receives that much attention from the jazz 
public or press. Critics are most likely to describe him for who he's played with - 
Mingus, and, most famously, Ornette Coleman (whose music is pretty damn hard to fit 
into on a piano) - than for his achievements as a leader, and this album didn't make that 
much of a fanfare. A shame, really, as it's a very good piece of work. 

No less a personage than Nat Henthoff wrote that "Bley is a genius", and went on 
to describe how to interweaves beauty and intellect in a way that "few pianists in any 
form of music" can. Producer Manfred Eicher shares the same respect, and here records 


him on the same piano, and in the same location as he had recorded Andras Schiff 
playing Schubert fantasies - on a Bosendorfer Imperial Grand in Mondsee, Austria. 

That respect, and that trust, has clearly paid off. This is music that's uncertain, and 
malleable, with constant subtle changes of mood (every few bars, even), but without ever 
feeling disjointed (you may not even notice the changes, unless you're listening very 
carefully). Always, though, there's a feel of song about it: Bley frequently sounds like 
has some well-remembered standard on the tip of his tongue - or, rather, his fingers. At 
several moments, I thought he would burst into (well, slide into) Surrey in the Fringe of 
Top. At other times, he sounds like he's spinning his own, new standards, with similarly 
wonderful melodies - take the start of 'Variation VI', where he moves from a dark feel to 
rhapsodic murmurings. 

The song-like element is something he shares with Keith Jarrett (in the latter' s 
solo work at least) - here, one feels, the over-used description 'lyrical' can really be 
justified - but he retains more of a jazzy feel. Characteristic, slightly skewy upwards runs 
give it an edge that Jarrett perhaps lacks, and make it a really rounded piece of music. 
That's encapsulated in 'Variation V, which, for me, is the highlight of the record: it's 
one of the shorter pieces, but it encapsulates everything that's so good about Bley's 
playing here. A mixture of straight jazz balladry and a more introspective explorativeness 
- yes, that is one of Bley's great achievements, but there is something more, something 
that makes this an album really worth hearing. What is this extra element? The 
possession of the melodic sense of a great songwriter at the same time as the talents and 
quick responsiveness of a master improviser - that is Bley's special gift, and that gift is in 
abundance here. A superb record. (Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Blue Note 
Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: The Mean Time; Five Months 
from Midnight; Anagram; Tumbleweed; 
When Can I Kiss You Again?; Cardinal 
Rule; Half Moon Lane; Loose Threads; 

Personnel: Michael Brecker: tenor sax, 
EWI; Pat Metheny: guitars; Herbie 
Hancock: piano (1, 5, 6, 9); BradMehldau: 
piano (2-4, 6, 7); John Patitucci: bass; Jack 
deJohnette: drums 

Additional Information: Brecker' s final 
album, released posthumously. 

It is difficult writing a review of what represents the late, great Michael Brecker' s 
final recording without being hagiographical. Without doubt the most influential tenor 
saxophonist of his generation, over the last dozen or so years he produced a body of 
consistent releases that helped to define the state of play with contemporary jazz. 


"Pilgrimage" is no exception. Performing live, he was always one of the biggest and most 
consistent features on the festival draw. 

Even in normal circumstances, this would be a remarkable record. Given the fact 
that Brecker was seriously ill when he entered the recording studio to make this disc, this 
represents a super human achievement, a testament of his astonishing will. Everything 
that one has grown accustomed to in his playing is present, the wonderful tone, the 
technical fluency and, of course, the ability to swing. On top of this, there is a fire in his 
playing and an intensity that will have fans clambering to acquire this disc. "Pilgrimage" 
includes some of the most passionate playing that Mike Brecker put down on record. 
As ever, Brecker has surrounded himself with the very finest musicians. The 
rhythm section is about as "state of the art" as is possible with Patitucci and DeJohnette 
acquitting themselves in as exemplary fashion as would be expected. Piano duties are 
shared between Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, the latter playing with a degree of 
muscularity often absent on his own recordings. As someone with a particular interested 
in jazz piano, "Pilgrimage" yet again offers further evidence of the fact that Hancock is 
the group pianist nonpareil, prompting the soloists with judiciously selected voicings and 
then spooling out wonderfully creative solos. I even like his electric piano on the title 
track. The front line is shared with guitarist Pat Metheny, re-uniting the partnership from 
"Tales from the Hudson", one of the most exceptional recordings from the 1990's. This 
guitar / tenor saxophone pairing is a particularly rewarding combination and sparring 
with the guitar seems to particularly suit the saxophonist. Nice to hear Metheny let his 
hair down and really start to wail! 

Getting on to the music, it is perhaps 
worth noting that Mike Brecker wrote 
all the compositions and credit is due 
to his ability to put together some 
wonderful themes. Without doubt, the 
one track that will get most airplay will 
be the rollicking "Tumbleweed" which 
has one of those truly infectious 
melodies that are so difficult to get out 
of your head. You feel like punching 
the air in celebration after the final 
chord when everyone has previously 
been jamming away on the closing 
vamp. As with his fellow musicians Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock, part of the genius 
of Michael Brecker is his ability to take complex ideas with time signatures and harmony 
and mould them into something that has immediate universal appeal. The mournful "Half 
Moon Lane" is no less worthy of praise and the ballad "When can I kiss you again?" is a 

In conclusion, this record is very much a celebration of Michael Brecker and his 
music. It is fitting that his final recording should be amongst some of his biggest musical 
friends - this record is an amicable reunion with everyone playing to their fullest ability 
for their buddy. Modern Jazz doesn't get much better than this. So long, Mike. Thanks 
for all the great music! (Review by Ian Thumwood) 



Release Date: 2007 

Label: Okka Disc 

Tracklist: Guts; Rising Spirits. 

Personnel: Joe McPhee: Trumpet, Alto/Tenor Sax; Peter Brotzmann - Alto/Tenor Sax, Clarinet Tarogato; 

Kent Kessler - Double Bass; Michael Zerang - Drums 

Additional Information: Recorded by Malachi Ritscher at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, 3 ld August 2005 

(Ritscher s last recording before his suicide). 

'Guts' is part of the series of new Brotzmann releases put out this year by 
Okkadisk. The group that recorded 'Tales Out of Time' (Hat, 2002) - Brotzmann, Joe 
McPhee, Kent Kessler, and Michael Zerang, all extracted from Brotzmann' s Chicago 
Tentet - is back with a new set of tunes recorded live in 2005 at Chicago's Empty Bottle. 
It's dedicated to the memory of sound engineer Malachi Ritscher (1954-2006), who 
described Brotzmann' s performance thus: "Subtlety, intelligence and generosity, yet for 
all of that it has balls." 

It's an apt description, of course, perhaps with a nod to the classic trio LP 'Balls' 
(FMP, 1970). Brotzmann' s style of playing hasn't changed that much in four decades, but 
the sound of his ensemble has. Michael Zerang and Kent Kessler provide far more 
coherent rhythmic lines for the saxophonist than the insanity of Bennink. Judging by his 
collaborations with Hamid Drake and William Parker in their Die Like a Dog Quartet, 
Brotzmann seems to prefer an element of groove to his music these days. The first, titular 
track opens with an amazing Zerang drum solo before Kessler' s bass and the twin tenors 
of Brotzmann and McPhee kick in. Brotzmann emerges to take the first solo with his 
repetitive, honking style, still fresh after all these years. He's overtaken by McPhee at a 
critical moment, whose own solo evolves from crisp to throaty in tone, as if the man is 
screaming through his horn. At times the two duet in unaccompanied, interlocking lines: 
one gruff and abrasive, the other lyrical with extended tones — a formula familiar from 
'Tales Out of Time'. The two continue to mimic each other's phrases, spiraling into the 
air to the beat of Zerang' s Drake-like playing, always searching but still anchored in the 
funky drops of his wooden block and cowbell. The piece's conclusion recalls the good 
old days, as Herr Brotz hits the highest and lowest points on his main axe, bringing 
everything around him to a screeching halt. 

"Rising Spirits" is double the length of "Guts" and a bit more exploratory. It 
begins with delicately bowed notes from Kessler' s double bass and Brotzmann in the 
background on tarogato (a Hungarian instrument similar to a clarinet), recreating the 
sound of a string instrument with incredible conviction. It's a bizarre, alienating effect to 
get things rolling with, but it keeps the music from feeling formulaic. We then have a 
duet where Brotzmann' s alto begins to mimic McPhee' s trumpet until the two have fully 
explored their altissimo range. The emphasis is really on the horns; it would be great to 
see Kessler and Zerang take more risks rather than just provide the rhythmic groundwork, 
but it does take a strong personality to stand up to these powerful reeds. It's a less 
coherent performance than "Guts" and ultimately less satisfying, though it does have its 
sublime moments, like the return of the major motifs from McPhee' s "Stone Poem No. 1" 
off of Tales; the two swell together forcefully above Kessler' s bowed bass and Zerang' s 
cymbals. It's amazing the way that the two lead soloists wind their way around each other 


with almost telepathic accuracy; I never realized how remarkably similar they'd become 
as players until I listened to this record. 

At this point, 'Guts' isn't exactly a new direction in Brotzmann's career. But it 
shows him still hitting his stride, aided by McPhee's more melancholy approach to 
songwriting. And though it lacks the cartoonish, absurdist commentary from the mid-70s 
peanut gallery of Van Hove and Bennink, it compensates with monster grooves and the 
closest thing to a Brotzmann ballad. Fine stuff, and worth the price of admission for the 
title track alone. (Review by Seth Watter) 



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Label: Azul Discografica 

Release Date: March 2007 

Tracklist: 3 untitled tracks, with lengths of 8:16, 23:24 

and 16:59. 

Personnel: Lucio Capece: soprano sax, bass clarinet; Axel 

Dorner: trumpet; Robin Hayward: tuba 

Berlin improvisers Dorner (trumpet) and Hawyard (tuba) were joined by 
Argentinian reedsman Lucio Capece in 2004 to form the trio known as Kammerlarm 
(chambernoise). This is their first full-length release, culled from two recording sessions 
at Dorner's home in 2005 (why has it taken so long to come out on CD?). It's very much 
in the vein of 'reductionism', or, as Dan Warburton puts it in his review of the album for 
Paris Transatlantic, 'next-to-nothingism' - extremely quiet free improvisation, concerned 
with sound and texture rather than melody or linear development (musical narrative), and 
with the relation of sound to silence as much as with the sound itself. The aim (as with 
most good improv) seems to be an attempt to create some sort of 
mental/intellectual/physical state impossible to attain any other way (excerpt, perhaps, 
through meditation) - somewhere in between full consciousness and sleep. 

Quite a daring area of music then, and full of possibilities - yet, a few years on 
from the beginning of this style of, in the 1990s, one may validly question whether any 
progression has really been made from the original concept. Indeed, one could question 
whether what started out as uniquely exploratory music now actually counts as 
'exploration' at all. 

So where does this leave us? How are to we relate to 'Kammerlarm'? As the 
official album description puts it, the music "evinces a strict reserve with respect to 'self- 
expression' " - no possibility of emotion there, then - "an acute awareness of the 
materiality of their instruments" - interesting conceptually, at least - and "a sustained 
exploration of the possibilities of instrumental playing." The latter's certainly true, but it 
again brings us back to that question - where does this leave us, what does this leave us 
with? Let's take one example: Dorner's extended techniques, ranging from grainy 
multiphonics to valve clicks and pops, pitchless hisses and draughty glissandi. These can 
be very effective - yet, more often than not, when used as the sole means of performance 


(not that Dorner can't do other modes - he's an extremely fine jazz player), they can 
leave one completely cold, as with Dorner' s solo album simply titled 'Trumpet', where, 
for about half the record, he seems to be impersonating an aeroplane taking off. 

A recent editorial for 'The Wire' magazine made me think about these issues 
again in relation to the music of saxophonist John Butcher, another improviser whose 
musical vocabulary is very much built on the use of extended techniques. As this editorial 
put it, the listener reaches a breakthrough when they realise that the techniques are the 
music, that they are not some external mode of virtuoso decoration imposed onto the 
meat of the music itself, but that they are where the musical itself argument unfolds. 
Butcher himself points out that you wouldn't listen to Jimi Hendrix or Aboriginal music 
with this separation between technique/form and content - no such distinction is made 
between the musical effect and the emotional effect it produces. 

This is all very well, and it does help a great deal in the case of Butcher. But that 
is only one case, and it's not possible to argue, I think, that extended techniques in 
themselves have any inherent value. Without effect, they're nothing - and this record, for 
me, does not have the effect that Butcher's do. I can see how it would be interesting, but 
it doesn't make me feel - and I just can't get around that obstacle. 
(Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Smalltown Superjazz 
tr % *i £ I Release Date: April 2007 

Tracklist: Who the Fuck; The Witch; Too 
Much Fun; Tekla Loo; Louie Louie; You Ain't 
Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know 
Me; The Nut; Baby Talk; I Can't Find My 

Personnel: Joe McPhee: tenor saxophone, 
pocket trumpet, vocals/ Cato Salsa Experience 
~ Cato Thomassen: guitar, vocals; Bard 
Enerstad: guitar, organ, theremin, vocals; 
Christian Engfelt: bass, vocals; Jon Magne 
Riise: drums/ The Thing ~ Mats Gustafsson: 
tenor & baritone saxophone, electronics; 
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten: double bass, 
electronics; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums 
Additional Information: This line-up has also recorded two EPs for Smalltown Superjazz: 'Sounds Like a 
Sandwich', from 2006. and T See You Baby' (recorded at the same sessions as the album under review). 
All are available for download at 

The meeting between Mats Gustaffson's free jazz group The Thing and garage 
rock band Cato Salsa Experience began at a concert during the Kongsberg Jazzfestival in 
Norway in 2004, and has continued through a number of releases: a couple of EPs, the 
first released in 2006, and another, featuring additional material recorded at the sessions 
for this album, in 2007. 

Thurston Moore's liner-notes, dated from the moment they were written (like 
Ralph J. Gleason's perhaps more insightful ones to 'Bitches' Brew,' or some minor- 


league wannabe beat poet), are written in some kind of stoned/slacker/experimentalist 
'hip' lingo. They're actually pretty fun, at the same time as being totally ridiculous, and I 
can't resist the temptation to quote from them here: "Is this superjazz? Does The Thing 
want to rock the fuck out? Is Paale Nilssen a love machine? Do Cato & Bard rip the shit 
outta guitar? Are you cramped? Can you find yr mind? Can you shake yr ass? Is it Nation 
Time!?" (Nation Time being the title of one of McPhee's free jazz albums from the 70s). 

It feels somewhat superficial - sticking two fingers up in the air, a rather 
simplistic rebellion ethos, where, if we can make the loudest noise possible, we're 
making some great statement. McPhee knows that there's more to the music than this, so 
does Gustaffson, so, surely, does Thurston - but they're all happy to go along with the 

Digression. About six month ago, Marcus O' Dair's article on 'death jazz', in the 
Guardian newspaper, lumped together various different styles and acts indiscriminately - 
from Weasel Walter to Japan's Soil and Pimp Sessions, Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib, 
Gutbucket and David Keenan of Tight Meat (for more on his performance with Sonny 
Simmons, see the gig reviews). O' Dair was trying to create the idea of a music which 
melded the attitudes of punk and free jazz, creating the new 'death jazz.' That both have 
broadly similar ethoses is nothing new, although the means of execution were very 
different (compare the music of Cecil Taylor to the Sex Pistols and you'll see what I 
mean - one attains a 'primitive' energy through greater musical simplicity, the other 
through extreme musical complexity). Yet the blanket 'Death Jazz' term overlooks 
fundamental differences between some of these music: while some of these bands may 
pretend to have the same attitude as free jazzers, in fact, their fault is the same as that 
which they accuse rock bands of having: pretending to be extreme when you're not 
really, and having a simplistic understanding of the music. For instance, Death Qunt's 
Craig Scott blasts rock music as being "advertised as extreme when it's the most 
commercialised horrible nonsense with nothing rebellious about it whatsoever." I'd argue 
that this turns out to be a criticism of 'death jazz' too. 

Some of it (Acoustic Ladyland especially) actually seems aimed more towards a 
no. 1 single than to any kind of real 'underground' -just as a faint jazz sheen adds some 
sense of sophistication to pop musicians like Katie Melua, which is helpful as a 
marketing tool, so the 'death jazz' market adds a daredevil edge to make jazz people 
seem 'in with the kids', and makes people who like rock music think they like jazz. 
Weasel Walter says, "My music is very personal and not geared towards mass acceptance 
in any way," and I'd concur, but for others, it's not the case. 

And so, back to this particular record. How does it fit into the 'death jazz' 
category? Well, it's a pretty obvious attempt to meld rock with jazz, both in terms of 
material - a cover of PJ Harvey sits alongside a cover of James Blood Ulmer - and 
instrumentation and style (rock band plays with free jazz group). To some extent, this 
fusion is sanctioned by the presence of Mats Gustafsson (whose superb album with Peter 
Brotzmann is included in this magazine's discs of the year list) and veteran reedsman Joe 
McPhee. McPhee is two things which are not often present in this 'death jazz' scene (a 
strange thing considering the origins of the music in a music associated very much with 
the civil rights struggle and radical politics in the 1960s): black and American. 
Furthermore, he clearly possesses a wicked sense of humour, which really sparks off with 
these Scandinavians - you can see this even more clearly on their EP, recorded at the 


same sessions, which mixes a tribute to Don Ayler with a cover of Groove Armada's 'I 
See You Baby' - McPhee intoning the lyrics with relish. 

Opener 'Who the Fuck' is a fairly straight cover of the PJ Harvey song. I can't 
say I was too keen on the lead vocals, which sound like they were recorded from a 
distance, or through some sort of filter, or something. Fairly unremarkable - they don't 
really take Harvey's tune anywhere. 'The Witch' opens with a squeaky bass solo before 
settling for a heavy riff and some double-horn skronk. After the brief (and fun) 'Too 
Much Fun' comes 'Tekla Loo', the most successful track, which opens with McPhee 
reciting a poem, before a groove kicks in and everything then descends into noisy 
guitar/sax chaos. This really manages to merge the collective energies of free jazz and 
rock music, as the whole record attempts to do, well. 

But too often, the two strands, though fairly successful in their own right, don't 
really sit together - it feels more like straight rock with freaky improvised interludes, or, 
if you prefer, improvised free jazz book-ended by straight rock melodies and changes. 
For instance, 'Louie Louie' feels like two different songs sandwiched together ('Sounds 
like a Sandwich' was the title of this group's EP, and seems appropriate): the rock song 
section, with vocals supported by punchy saxes, is good, and so is the improv section 
(lungbusting Gustaffson sax with McPhee on trumpet), but they just don't gel together. 

The following track, 'You Ain't Gonna Know Me Cos You Think You Know 
Me,' is a surprise - a gentle jazz ballad, with Gustafsson blowing breathily over acoustic 
bass, joined by the drummer and McPhee' s gentle counterpoint on trumpet, then some 
slightly surreal wailing high vocals and guitars. Out of context, it wouldn't seem 
remarkable - perhaps even pedestrian (and the vocals don't really do it for me)- but it's a 
useful point of respite from all the noise. 

As if to make up for the momentary dip in energy, 'The Nut' is brutal - the first 
two minutes are a repeated (unison) guitar and drum pattern overlaid with distorted, 
smeary organ. When Gustaffson' s baritone comes in, he briefly plays a knotty tune, 
leaves it to McPhee to solo with just the drums, then joins him so that they can wail 
together, and then he takes a solo with his Brotzmanesque-tone and vocalized sound. 

'Baby Talk' is a James Blood Ulmer tune, originally performed by the Music 
Revelation Ensemble (David Murray, Amin Ali, and Ronald Shannon Jackson) on their 
1980 album 'No Wave,' an early example of an attempt to fuse jazz with punk. Those 
were heavy cats, but their version sounds almost tame in comparison; this group give it 
another noisy workout that is at once both rollicking and somewhat distressed, with 
strident horns, crashing drums, and incessantly busy guitars. 

Like track 2, 'I Can't Find my Mind' opens with a solo, this time guitar, full of 
feedback and distortion, a fuzzy sonic haze out of which a few shards of what could be 
said to resemble melodic phrases pop out occasionally; after a few minutes of this, 
another of those heavy basslines comes in, with the beefy horn sound, and vocals. It's a 
song by punk band The Cramps, and consists of a series of ridiculously straight blues 
chords, played out slowly, dragged out, grinding - presumably meant to be some kind of 
showstopping finish, I find it rather irritating, but some may find it compelling: a kind of 
doomy feel, ending with a cry. 

And that is my experience of The Thing, with Cato Salsa Experience and Joe 
McPhee. Succesful in some parts, but more often than not a somewhat uneasy hybrid. 
Make of it what you will. 


(Review by David Grundy. The article by Marcus O'Dair on death jazz is available 
online at„2207440,00.html ) 


Label: Cuneiform 
Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: I'm So Fickin* Cool; August 5th, 
2006; Be Happy; This Too Shall Pass; Rug Boy; 
For you; Rainy Days/Peanut Vendor Mash-Up; 
Three Odes: Admiration (for Peter Garland), 
Nostalgia (for Jan Garbarek), Pity (for Mary 

Personnel: Drew Gress: acoustic bass; John 
Hollenbeck: drains, percussion, electric tape 
preparation (6); Matt Moran: vibraphone, 
vocals/lyrics (6); Ted Reichman: accordion; 
Chris Speed: clarinet, tenor saxophone. 

In a way, this group's material is built upon paradox; at a first glance, it could 
sound pretty "simple" to the ears of many obsessive new music aficionados who only live 
for endangered rhythmical species and finger contortions. Give it a coupla (make that 
three, or four) attentive tries and think again, as under the appearance of sheer "linear" 
themes or minimalist repetitions there's a puzzling world of details and structures that, 
taken as a whole, furnish the compositions with the richness that's typical of a great 
"progressive" band mixing contemporary jazz, Reich, Piazzolla and Bulgarian folk 
played with the same attitude of a technically hyper-advanced bionic busker. 

"For" is Claudia's fourth CD - note the title's pun - each of its tracks being 
dedicated to someone, famous or not (check for yourself). Besides the well-known 
percussive bravura of leader's John Hollenbeck who - incidentally - penned all the pieces, 
lots of kudos should ideally go to Ted Reichman, whose accordion is the real protagonist 
of compelling situations ranging from the melancholia-tinged immateriality ("This too 
shall pass") to the plain virtuosity ("Be happy"). This should not detract from the 
astounding musicianship and adroitness of the other Claudians (Drew Gress on bass, Matt 
Moran on vibraphone and Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor sax) completing the line-up 
of an ensemble that acts as the perfect trait d 'union between the necessity of something 
complex and the will of relaxing the nerves every once in a while, still without being able 
of actually lowering our guard, given that a circuitous construction can always be lurking 
behind the corner of a single-note melody. Don't worry if you can't find a definition for 
the Claudia Quintet; just rejoice for their newborn creature, as these guys are extremely 
serious in what they do. 

(Review by Massimo Ricci, originally published at 'Touching Extremes' - 


Label: Koch Records 

Release Date: July 2007 

Tracklist: CD1 : Earmarks; Tree and Shrub; War Room; Indian Point; The Cornet is a Fickle Friend; The 

Next Phase (for Thomas); October Surprise; Seth Thomas. CD2 : Meaning and Mystery; Navigations; 

Redemption; Little Pemi; Living Streams; Leaving Autumn; Bonus tracks : Magic Triangle; A Single Sky. 


Personnel: Dave Douglas: comet; Doiiny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Uri Caine: Fender Rhodes; James 
Genus: contrabass; Clarence Perm: drums. 

Additional Information: The Quintet performed at 6-night run at the Jazz Standrad from 5-10* December 
2006. The complete recordings are available at . 

'Live at the Jazz Standard' showcases trumpeter Dave Douglas - on cornet this 
time - and his quintet, performing live at New York City club the Jazz Standard on 
various nights in December of 2006. Joining Douglas here are tenor saxophonist Donny 
McCaslin, Fender Rhodes specialist and musical magpie Uri Caine (known for his jazz 
versions of Mahler and other classical composers), bassist James Genus and drummer 
Clarence Penn. Originally released as complete download-only sets on Douglas' own 
Greenleaf Label website, here Douglas has pruned the sets down to 18 cuts over two 
discs. Furthermore, he's also focused the selection on original compositions never 
released on any previous albums. In that sense, fans of Douglas' past work with this 
ensemble on such studio efforts as 2002's 'Infinite' and 2006's 'Meaning and Mystery' 
will surely enjoy this, as it essentially plays as an all new recording, and not just a live 
documentation of the quintet. In fact, disc two focuses on compositions Douglas wrote 
while delving into the iconic work of innovative pocket -trumpeter Don Cherry, and were 
initially intended for inclusion on 'Meaning and Mystery.' This is soulful, visceral, 
moody and propulsive post-bop that often leans heavily toward late-'60s and 70s modal 
and free jazz. Well worth hearing. 



Label: Alpha Phonics 

Release Date: September 2007 

Tracklist: (Ion Storm) Ion Storm; Binary Systems; 

Molecular Excitation; Star Flakes (Star Ejections); 

Floating in Space. (Twelve Votes) Live at the Hook 

- Ion Storm; Morning Dew; Floating in Space; Live 

at ABC No Rio - Ion Storm/Morning Dew/Floating 

in Space; Interdimensional Gateway. 

Personnel: (Ion Storm) James Duncan: trumpet; Ras 

Moshe: saxophones; Tor Synder: electric guitar; 

Marc Edwards: drains. (Twelve Votes) - Blaise 

Siwula: alto sax; Jefrrey Hayden Shurdut: piano (on 

'Interdimensional Gatway'); Tor Synder. Ernest 

Anderson III: electric guitars; Francois Grillot: bass; 

Marc Edwards: drains. 

Additional Information: Both albums are available 
for download at and itunes. More information about Marc Edwards, and about the band, can be 
found at 
php/musician.php?id=3102 and slipstreamtimetravel . 

Marc Edwards is best known for his stint with the 1976 version of the Cecil 
Taylor Unit, also featuring tenor saxophonist David S. Ware, that produced the oft- 
praised 'Dark Unto Themselves'. These days, his project is the New- York based band 
'Slipstream Time Travel', originally with saxophonist Sabir Mateen, now with Ras Moshe 
filling the sax chair, along with James Duncan on trumpet and Tor Synder on electric 
guitar. As Edwards comments in an interview on the 'All About Jazz' website, he got 



used to playing without a bassist, and has thus evolved a muscular, powerful style 
designed to fill out the layers in the music that a bassist would normally fill, so the music 
doesn't feel stripped-down at all: in fact, it's quite the opposite. Thus, on the bass-less 
'Ion Storm', where Edwards is the sole member of the rhythm section, there's more meat 
on many records with a bassist. 

These two new releases on the label Edwards founded in 1991, Alpha Phonics, 
are both characterized by their aggression and volume levels. Of the two, 'Ion Storm' 
with his regular band, is the more jazz-based and 'accessible'; '12 Votes' adds the 2" 
guitar of Ernest Andersen III, and, on the final track, alto sax and piano, to create a storm 
of sound which sometimes recalls the live performances from Pat Metheny and Derek 
Bailey's 'Sign of Four' in volume level and intensity. 

The two guitars produce squals of Sharrockian dissonance, chattering streams of 
sound that feel as if they could wail and wail and all night long. There's little respite from 
the aural assault, although the fourth, and longest track, recorded live at ABC No Rio, 
features a spook jazz interlude and some walking bass, before descending back into the 
psychedelic (psychotic?) maelstrom. 

But it's with the addition of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut's piano on the final track, 
'Interdimensional Gateway,' that things are really pushed to the max - the texture 
becomes thicker than ever, perhaps too thick, recalling the sludginess of the 
Metheny/Bailey collaboration I mentioned above, and a lot of big-band free 
improvisation. With no solos or apparent form as such -just everyone playing at once, 
everyone soloing at once, in the manner of say Alan Silva's 'Luna Surface,' or elements 
of Peter Brotzmann's music - it's can be hard to find a way in, to penetrate the thicket of 
noise, and the best way to experience it is probably as a hallucinatory wash that batters 
you into total immersion/submission. Shurdut's piano exists more as a presence, an aural 
haze, an entity of sound rather than line. Rather than the crisp percussiveness which the 
instrument can produce, it becomes smeared by the other musicians so that it exists as 
just another element in the texture: you know it's there even if you can't really hear what 
its doing. The bass, meanwhile, is a penumbral rumbling presence trying to make an 
order, a line through the screaming thicket of sound-wall-noise - a hopeless task! 

Well, neither of these records are subtle, and both are very, very noisy, but I 
haven't felt this exhilarated for quite a while, and it's fun being caught up in such a 
screeching, no-holds barred slab of music. (Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Concorde Release Date: April 2007 
Tracklist: Nightmoves; Tight; Change Partners/If You 
Never Come to Me; Undun; Where Are You, My Love; 
And We Will Fly; The Waking; The Sleepers; Leaving 
Again/In The Wee Small Hours; A New Body And Soul; 
I Like the Sunrise. 

Personnel: Kurt Elling: vocals; Laurence Hobgood: 
piano; Willie Jones, III: drums; Christian McBride: bass 
(1-4,6,10); Rob Amster: bass (5,7,8,11); Rob Mounsey: 
electric piano, keyboards (1, 4, 6); Guilherme Monteiro: 
guitar (3,6); Bob Mintzer: tenor sax (1); Howard Levy: 
harmonica (3); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (6); The 
Escher String Quartet (5,8). 


This is likely to be a divisive record with people brought up with the milliard of 
Sinatra clones likely to find little to enjoy in the uncompromising set by American singer 
Kurt Elling. For those of us who have grown up listening to singers such as the late Betty 
Carter who have remained defiantly faithful to the tenets of jazz however, this new disc is 
very much to be welcomed. 

Largely eschewing a programme of standards, Elling' s rich tone lends itself to a 
set of originals, in many cases being settings of poetry. In two of the instances where he 
elects to sing repertoire from the Broadway songbook, these are based upon 
transcriptions from solos by the great tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Whilst the 
reading of "Body & Soul" is something of a 10-minute tour de force (enough to make 
you forget this tune's reputation as a vehicle for saxophone prowess), the distinctly 
unsentimental arrangement of the small string ensemble on "Where are you" renders this 
a definitive version of the tune in my estimation. This is one of the best things on the 
whole album. The other two standards are bolted into medleys incorporating themes by 
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Keith Jarrett - the version of "Change partners / If you never 
come to me" highlighting just how good the lyrics of these tunes are. This is a 
particularly inspired coupling. Unfortunately, the rendering of Duke Ellington's "I like 
the sunrise" that closes the disc only serves to demonstrate that, amongst that composer's 
many talents, he did not always hit the bull's eye when it came to song writing. 

The rest of the disc offers an example of Kurt Elling' s versatility and includes a 
funky version the pop song "Undun" with Bob Mintzer contributing some choice tenor. 
There is also a short, snappy version of Betty Carter's own tune "Tight" that allows the 
singer to pay his respects the late chanteuse. No small part of the success of this disc is 
due to the well-crafted arrangements by Rob Mounsey and Laurence Hopgood, who also 
takes the piano chair in Elling' s regular trio. Willie Jones III does sterling job on drums 
and bass duties are shared between Rob Amster and guest Christian McBride. 

All told, this is a CD that gets better with each successive listening and, if some of 
the risks taken do not quite work, overall there is plenty to recommend it. Should one 
track on this disc demonstrates Ellings' prowess it is the setting of Theodore Roethke's 
poem "The Waking" where he is accompanied solely by Ron Amster' s bass. After an 
initial hearing, the accompanying hook sounded familiar and it eventually dawned on me 
that it was borrowed from Bach's "Sleeper's awake!" There is a passage where Elling 
climbs up several octaves to land on an almost falsetto G. The effect is pretty much 

Well recorded and offering a varied programme, "Night moves" is a disc that has 
ensconced in my CD playing over the last few weeks. Hip, swinging and demonstrating a 
considerable degree of skill where the integrity of the music is never compromised, this 
disc proves Elling to be the peer of this generation of male jazz singers. A very good 
record indeed. (Review by Ian Thumwood) 


Label: Delmark Release Date: April 2007 

Tracklist: Soul to Groove; Speaking in Tongues; Transmigration; Nu Art Claiming Earth; Return of the 

Lost Tribe. 

Personnel: Kahil El' abar: percussion, leader; Ernest Dawkins: alto sax, percussion; Joseph Bowie: 

trombone, percussion; Ilyes Ferfera: alto sax; Grat Martinez: baritone sax; Arnaud Rouanet: tenor sax; 

Marc Closier: tenor sax; Karlis Vanags: sax; Noris Kolmanis: sax; Benoit Berthe: sax; Fabien Deyts: 

trumpet; Yann Grillon: trumpet; Piero Pepin: trumpet; Vincent Gaugere: trumpet; Dominque Darrouzet: 


trumpet; Jean Dousteyssier: clarinet; Christian Patzer: flute; Jeremi Ortal: trombone; Guillaume Ballin: 
trombone; Clement Billardello: guitar; Xavier Corpice: guitar; Natalie Gaucher: vocal; Bindi Mahamat: 
vocal rap; Remi Bernis: vocal rap; Stephane Castanet: DJ; Nicolas Perrin: DJ turntablist; Olivier Soubles: 
piano; Marianne Thiebaut: djembe; Manue Peran: djembe; Jonathan Verbaere: djembe; Yacoura Silla: 
djembe, balaphon; Yvain Chambard: balafon, percussion; Pascale Martinez, Estelle Renauld: percussion; 
Herve Mignon: electric bass; Xavier Hayet: acoustic bass; Phillipe Gaubert, Antonin Mallaret, Yoann 
Scheidt: drums. Additional Information: Recorded live in Bordeaux, France, in 2005. 

I was all set to write-up a party-friendly, spazz-happy record, but to tell you the 
truth, it just didn't hold my attention and was really wrong for my current mindset. I need 
something more random and less hip, something maybe not necessarily mind-blowing, 
but interesting and exotic and ridiculous. I need to distance myself from the DJs and 
laptop-artists and solo-outfits and half-cocked ideas and immerse myself in something 
bigger, some sort of cultural melting pot of styles and backgrounds and musicians. I need 
something more than a quartet or a quintet or a sextet of players, I need a fucking small 
village of musical minds playing as one. I need something both new and old, a bridging 
of eras and mindsets, something that stretches out in all directions with exuberance, 
excitement and joy, and something celebratory to bring in this holiday weekend. So, what 
the hell, I'm heading to a port city in the southwest of France to experience the live, 
multi-layered, ethnic barrage of free jazz, big band, soul-jazz, funk and hip-hop by a 39- 
piece orchestra. While I may actually be spending this pleasantly cool and quiet Chicago 
Friday night huddled over my laptop with a Honker's Ale and an attention hungry cat, as 
far as my mind and ears are concerned, I'm sitting front-and-center at the National 
Theatre of Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France, drunk on their world-famous wine and smiling 
broadly at the orchestrating antics of Kahil El'Zabar as he leads his Infinity Orchestra 
through the rambunctious hour-long set of Transmigration. 

El'Zabar is a true Chicago jazz musician; he is multi-talented, highly committed 
and part of more eccentrically wonderful projects than there is time to list. A product of 
the AACM, he is a percussionist, arranger, composer, conductor, clothes/costume 
designer, educator and community leader. As a musician, he began at a young age honing 
his skills with early incarnations of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and along with playing 
alongside everyone from Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Cannonball 
Adderley, he has lead and played in groups like the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, the JUBA 
Collective and the Ritual Trio. There are many other interesting tidbits to El'Zabar' s 
career as well, for example, clothes designing for Nina Simone, artist in residence/Master 
of Carnival in Bordeaux, or arranging the stage performances of The Lion King, but we 
really should concentrate on the album at hand. 

The origination of the Infinity Orchestra reaches back to 1978 when El'Zabar 
pieced together an all-Chicago ensemble that let him experiment with his increasingly 
ambitious big-band compositions. In fact, one piece from those experimental days 
appears on this release, the album closer "Return of the Last Tribe." Inspired then by the 
works of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Archie Shepp's big-band excursions and now 
influenced by myriad of geographically concentrated styles including free jazz in France 
(especially BYG Actuel releases, though not nearly as challenging), indigenous African 
percussion (most notably the balafon and djembe) and American rap and turntablism, 
El'Zabar has arranged and orchestrated a skillfully performed and joyous album with his 
French 39-piece cross-generational ensemble in Transmigration, which may not be 
perfect, but is certainly a treat to experience. 


The album opens with the very curious "Soul to Groove," certainly not what I was 
expecting at least. Kicking off with a turntable solo, a solo free jazz tenor sax enters two 
minutes later wailing away like there's no tomorrow. It's not cheesy in the least, which in 
itself is a success. Bombastic orchestra cheers and funky guitar riffing egg on the duet 
before dissolving back to just solo turntable once again; it is certainly not the first pair of 
the two genres, but it is handily pulled off. Now "Nu Art Claiming Earth" on the other 
hand is not nearly as successful and actually bends toward unlistenable. This times 
rhymes are added to the mix care of French rapper Bindi Mahamat, and with no offense 
to his flow, it just doesn't work. The song drags on for fifteen-minutes through a barrage 
of different movements, but if anything, just disenchants the promising album opener. 

The centerpiece of Transmigration is the 24-minute "Speaking in Tongues," 
though while simple from an arrangement standpoint contains fantastic musicianship and 
is a very rewarding track. Kicking off with the melodic percussive sound of the balafon, a 
West African xylophone of sorts, it meanders through three phases each spotlighting a 
different soloist, trumpeter Piero Pepin, clarinetist Jean Dousteyssier, and alto 
saxophonist Benoit Berthe. Like every solo on the disc, they are inspired and fantastic, 
and in fact, the solos are the main attraction of the album. On "Return of the Lost Tribe," 
the only two non-French musicians, Chicagoans Ernest Dawkins (New Horizons 
Ensemble) and Joseph Bowie (Defunkt) each provide emotional outbursts to the grooving 
orchestral swing led by El'Zabar. Again, it would be a far cry to call any of it classic, but 
it is very enjoyable and a much-welcomed aural escape from most of what gets released 
these days. 

So after a ridiculously jading week, it feels great to lose myself in the heart-felt 
eccentricities of Kahil El'Zabar and his orchestra. No it won't win you many cool points 
in the hipster realm of things and no it won't blow your mind from a musical you-have- 
never-experienced-something-like-this-before standpoint, but it will put a grin on your 
face, make your head sway and probably send you to the liner notes a couple times to see 
who just ripped that ridiculous clarinet solo. What else could you want? Well, maybe a 
bottle of Bordeaux's world-famous wine. . . 

(Review by Michael Ardaiolo, originally published at 


Label: 18th & Vine 
Release Date: August 2007 
Tracklist: Sweet Georgia Brown; You and the 
Night and the Music; Charade; 'Round Midnight; 
Besame Mucho; Love Song; The End of a Love 
Affair; For Duke and Cannon; Bebop. 
Personnel: Sonny Fortune: alto sax, flute (4, 6); 
George Cables: piano; Chip Jackson: bass; Steve 
Johns: drums 


Fortune, like Charles Tolliver (whose 'With Love' is one of this issue's discs of 
the year), belongs to what could very well be described as the lost generation of jazz. 
These men, and like-minded musicians, such as Billy Harper and Stanley Cowell, have 
been rather consistently overlooked, the reason being that their heyday, in the late 
60s/early 70s, coincided with the rise of fusion and the sidelining of the sort of jazz idiom 
that they worked in: modern post-bop with nods to free jazz and the avant-garde (in spirit 
and energy if less often in musical content). Fortune, to be fair, did have some 
involvement in the fusion movement, appearing on Miles Davis' extraordinary live 
double albums 'Agharta' and 'Pangaea', and these could be his best known appearances on 
record, although that honour could also go to his days as a sideman with McCoy Tyner, 
during the period when the latter was recording for Milestone records, and really 
beginning to find his voice as a leader, after a few uncertain years following the death of 
Coltrane. He also had brushes with the avant-garde, playing on Pharoah Sanders' 1969 
freakout 'Izipho Zam.' 

Like Sanders, his Coltrane influences were always pronounced, and he 
acknowledges this fact, but they were not as overwhelming as one sometimes felt they 
were with Tyner's other 70s saxophonist, Azar Lawrence, and Fortune is most definitely a 
player with an individual style. His soprano sax playing had a hard edge very different 
from the fervent Orientalism of Coltrane's approach, his alto tone was sharp and tart, and 
his flute added textural refreshment, though there was always the lingering feeling that 
this is an instrument often used in jazz for novelty effect, (even Eric Dolphy didn't give 
his greatest performances on it). 

'You and the Night and the Music' finds him in the sort of post-bop mode, which, 
if this can be said about any one style in the notoriously diverse jazz scene of today, has 
come to constitute the music's mainstream tradition. He's joined on this date by a fine 
rhythm section, and many seasoned jazz listeners will undoubtedly relish the presence of 
pianist George Cables. Maybe not an absolute top-league soloist, but nonetheless a very 
attractive player, he has provided reliable backing over the years to the likes of Sonny 
Rollins, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, and had particularly notable stints with 
Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper. I've heard him described as "everyone's favourite 
sideman," and with that in mind, he perfectly suits this date. While Fortune is the best- 
known player of the quartet, it's not about showing-off, or an ego-trip for the leader - it's 
a comfortable medium, with plenty of virtuosity, if in somewhat contained form: tracks 
never outstay their welcome, and sometimes fade out. Nevertheless, the penetrating 
quality that was especially noticeable in Fortune's stint with Tyner is still there, heard in 
some characteristic rapid-fire runs which swoop upwards to piercing high sonorities, then 
end with a brief downward flourish. This seems to inspire Cables, who has some 
uncharacteristically heated moments in which right hand runs are juxtaposed with 
crashing left hand chords, Tyner-style. That's not really his forte, though, and he clearly 
prefers to lay down a relaxed, laid-back, self-possessed vibe, seen at its best on a track 
like 'Charade', where his solo has a palpable sense of joy about it - satisfaction, even 

Still, I couldn't help feeling slightly dissatisfied as I listened: the most apt word I 
can find to describe the CD is 'solid', whereas I'd rather it was 'exceptional,' or at least 
innovative. Maybe I'm demanding too much, but I did find myself asking: who needs 
another version of 'Round Midnight'? True, it's a little different in that Fortune delivers it, 


with limpid grace, on the flute, giving it a cool, relaxed tone, but that does make it feel 
somewhat distanced - the melody coasts past without really registering any impact. It's 
become so familiar that to give it any sort of resonance, something quite special or 
unusual has to be done with it - a prime example of that would be Bobby McFerrin's 
ethereal vocalised version with Herbie Hancock on the 'Round Midnight' soundtrack, 
which shouldn't work, but does. As it is, here, you get exactly what you might expect: 
everything is in its right place. There are times though, when that's not enough, when 
what you actually want is something with more rough edges, which employs fire rather 
than polish. 

And, to be honest, the whole record is similarly predictable, especially when you 
consider how powerful, passionate and inventive Fortune's performances with McCoy 
Tyner in the 70s could be. Consequently, it's the sort of thing that's not really going to 
rock anybody's boat overmuch, but, still, it's good to know that guys like Fortune are still 
making music, and that there are still times when his playing really sparkles. 
(Review by David Grundy) 



Label: SkipStone Records 

Release Date: August 2007 

Tracklist: King Rig; Dream Song; Airstreain 

Envy; Road Weary; Night White; Block Ice & 

Propane; A Thousand Unpieced Suns; 

Rushmore; Rusting in Honeysuckle; Cold 

Chicken; Yakime; Pressure Cooking; Valley of 


Personnel: Erik Friedlander: cello, tuning 

forks; Scott Solter: engineer, live processing. 

A veteran of New York's downtown scene (and the son of famous jazz 
photographer Lee Friedlander) Erik Friedlander' s perhaps best known for his work with 
John Zorn, and, with a grounding in classical music and session work (in contexts 
ranging from Courtney Love's band to Hollywood musicals), he's an incredibly gifted 
musician technically, whatever genre he's performing in. Before starting on the cello, his 
main instrument, he played guitar from the age of 6, and this new solo album in some 
ways marks a return to those experiences, as well as to other memories from his 

His previous solo cello disc, 'Matador' (2003), consisted of improvisations 
inspired by French surrealist poetry. 'Block Ice and Propane' is considerably less avant- 
garde, and is probably his most accessible work so far. In the official 'electronic press kit' 
(a short promotional video available online), he fills in some of the background: "Every 
summer my parents would pack us up for months of camping. Cities, campgrounds, 
parades - thousands of miles of highway travel. Writing these pieces put me back in that 
camper." The album then, consists of a series of compositions and improvisations (it's 


often hard to tell which), inspired by his childhood memories of travel across the 
continent - a kind of aural road movie. In fact, it's easy to picture it as the soundtrack to 
an actual road movie, and, despite being a concept album, it's similar to many of those 
movies in that it's more about mood, atmosphere, and character than specific narrative 

Solo cello is an unusual choice for an album, particularly a jazz one (I personally 
think it's stretching things to call this jazz - but, saying that, what you would call it 
instead is also beyond me). This is not a problem, though: Friedlander exploits the 
capabilities of his instrument to the full, although here he tends to focus on a particular 
sound quality, a particular type of resonance, playing the cello pizzicato, as if it was a 
rich, deep-toned guitar, and spinning out melodies alternately buoyant and rustic or 
dreamy and hazy (as in the gorgeous second track). 

He himself says that playing the cello in this way, which involves reaching back 
to what he calls the "finger-picking" techniques of his guitar background, enabled him to 
create a music that "sounded like Americana - very simple, unadorned, very earnest, with 
pretty melodies that were very direct." There's a pronounced folky feel, but not in the 
sense that he plays traditional folk melodies - it's perhaps more an idea of folk music and 
culture, a filtering of low art through high art, which takes some of its characteristics as 
inspiration but retains a separateness, the individual voice of the musician involved in its 
creation never being subsumed by the traditions he draws from (or creates, in the case of 
Aaron Copland's 'Appalaichan Spring'). 

It also raises the idea that there might be a specifically midwestern sound, seen 
also in the solo work of Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny (particularly his album 'Beyond the 
Missouri Sky' with bassist Charlie Haden, and some of Bill Frissell's more American'- 
style albums, with their evocative songs like 'Strange Meeting.' As with John Surman's 
wonderful 'The Spaces in Between', an album that I feel is, in many ways, 
quintessential^ English, it taps into a particular way of looking at the world that can be 
said to be (partly) a national characteristic - or at least a characteristic of a nation's art. 
Thus, I don't feel that it's too much of a stretch to say that 'Block Ice and Propane' is, in 
many way, quintessential^ American. You may feel resistance to such a claim, may feel 
that I'm simply tapping into a sentimentalised idea of what America means, a cliche 
we've seen and heard in hundreds of movies and books: something vaguely elegiac and 
nostalgic, but ultimately not grounded in reality. It's hard to deny it's charms though, and 
so, in this case, I think I'll have to write 'in praise of dreams' (as Jan Garbarek's album 
title puts it) - not that this is the only thing that music can do, but it is one thing it does well. 

Also, we shouldn't overlook the fact that, while everything sounds very effortless 
and spontaneous, this sort of stuff doesn't just come rolling out, especially considering 
that this is solo cello, and that puts it into a different class. The cello is mostly unadorned, 
putting enormous demands on Friedlander to be engaging at all times (although he is 
helped out a little bit by the reverberant sound engineering, which fills the sound out, and 
the subtle electronic background to track 2). Airstream Envy' is one of the best 
demonstrations of how he is: it begins with the sort of phrasing and arco tone you'd 
expect from a Bach cello suite, then transforms into a medium-tempo Appalaichan hoe- 

There are a few, scattered nods to the avant-garde, with the more anguished, 
droning, de-tuned sound of 'Road Weary' and 'Pressure Cooking,' and the virtuoso 


plucking of 'Cold Chicken.' Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to approach this 
expecting anything other than low-key melodicism: what prevails is the folky Americana 
feel I've been outlining above. I find this very attractive; some may find it rather dull and 
mind-numbing (though all the other reviews I've read have been very positive). We can 
hardly criticise it for being too melodic, although I will say that it's all much of a 
muchness - no track in particular really stands out. It's very pleasing, an excellent 
demonstration of Friedlander's gifts, and unusual for being a solo cello record, though not 
an absolutely phenomenal album. 
(Review by David Grundy) 


Label: FMR 

Release Date: November 2007 

Tracklist: Improvisation; Witch Gong Game 11/10 

Personnel: Emma Roche: flute, baroque flute; Matthew Studdert-Kennedy: flute; Nick Fells: shakuhachi; 

Daniel Padden: clarinet, voice, percussion; Nicola MacDonald: voice; Robert Henderson, Matt Cairns: 

trumpet; George Murray: trombone; Pete Dowling: alto sax; Raymond MacDonald: alto and soprano sax; 

Graeme Wilson: tenor and baritone sax; John Burgess: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Bill Wells: keyboard; 

George Burt, Neil Davidson: guitar; Peter Nicholson: cello; Maya Homburger: baroque violin; Una 

MacGlone, George Lyle, Barry Guy: double-bass; Mike Travis: drums. 

Although they have already released two discs with the likes of Evan Parker and 
Maggie Nicols, "Falkirk" marks my first encounter with the GIO, a collective of clever 
musicians coming from the most disparate backgrounds (the press release defines them as 
"jazz, contemporary classical, experimental pop and sound art"). The CD, recorded live 
at Falkirk's Callendar House in 2005, contains a graciously variegated 16-minute 
improvisation and a very long piece by double bassist and composer Barry Guy - a 
collaborator of the Orchestra since the beginning in 2002 - called "Witch Gong Game 
11/10". In this track, which is obviously the album' s backbone, the score consists of a set 
of panels containing painter and percussionist Alan Davie's graphic signs, which should 
indicate "different kinds of music floating over a black void". This implies a symbolic 
message of unity and communion through the act of playing together, whatever the genre 
and the technical expertise involved, in "the darkness of an indifferent universe". Besides 
Guy, violinist Maya Homburger is featured as a special guest. The aim is high given the 
artistic intent, yet the ensemble is tight enough to guarantee several moments of really 
interesting emotional outburst, swaying music that changes in speed and intensity at the 
flick of a switch but succeeds in making the listener "reflect about the difficulty" rather 
than "look for distractions". On a few occasions, the mixture of articulation and freedom 
made me think of Keith Tippett's Centipede; elsewhere, beautiful horn arrangements lead 
to territories akin to Frank Zappa's work with the London Symphony Orchestra. This 
stuff blasts frequently and rubs rarely, all the while giving the idea of a serious 
commitment from those concerned. 

(Review by Massimo Ricci, originally published at 'Touching Extremes' - 




* £ — "*■ 


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Label: Verve 

Release Date: September 2007 

Tracklist: Court and Spark; Edith and the Kingpin; Both Sides Now; River; Sweet Bird; Tea Leaf 

Propechy; Solitude; Amelia; Nefertiti; The Jungle Line. 

Personnel: Herbie Hancock: piano; Wayne Shorter: soprano and tenor saxophones; Lionel Loueke: guitar; 

Dave Holland: bass; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; with guests - Norah Jones: vocal (1); Tina Turner: vocal (2); 

Corinne Bailey Rae: vocal (4); Joni Mitchell: vocal (6); Luciana Souza: vocal (8); Leonard Cohen: vocal 


This was the surprise winner of Album of the Year at the 2008 Grammy Awards - 
the first jazz album to win since 1965, when Getz/Gilberto took the gong. Some may 
point out that Getz's mellow bossa-nova was hardly the cutting-edge of jazz back then, 
and Hancock's latest isn't exactly the cutting-edge either. But when an artist of his stature 
(forgetting, for a moment, the misfiring flirtation with cheesy disco music or the abysmal 
'Perfect Shock') covers the songs of one of the most interesting lyricists and musicians of 
her time, the results are bound to be at least moderately interesting. An added bonus, too, 
is the presence of guest saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who's on the form of his life at the 
moment, his playing with his current Quartet having gelled to the extent that I think it 
easily rivals the classics he made in the 60s such as 'Speak No Evil' or the albums with 
the Miles Davis Quintet. Here, he adds his usual pithy touches, which is appropriate 
given that Hancock chooses to emphasise the spaciousness of Joni's music, while 
ensuring that it doesn't overly simple by adding a little jazz complexity. The end result is 
understated yet not minimal. Mind you, at times, Shorter plays with such delicacy that he 
almost disappears into the ether entirely: towards the end of 'Sweet Bird', he occasionally 
doesn't even plays notes, instead playing breathy noises that sound as if they're about to 
become notes but just hang in the air instead. 


The guest vocalists were one of the things that made me worry when I first read 
about the project: it seemed as though they were chosen simply because they were 
currently in fashion. As such, this would continue the trend on 'Possibilties', where, for 
example, Christina Aguileira is hardly a match for Hancock's abilities, regardless of 
genre - her technically impressive but rather empty vocal pyrotechnics are miles away 
from Herbie's melodic and harmonic inventions). My suspicions about the guest-list for 
'River' were confirmed when I read in an interview that the decision was producer Larry 
Klein's, yet, ultimately, it is only through examining the music that we can see 

Norah Jones has a pleasant voice, but neither she nor Corrine Bailey Rae have the 
depth and gravitas needed for Mitchell's songs - they sound too young, too innocent, too 
bright, too fresh (Jones perhaps slightly less so), whereas Mitchell's voice always had a 
world-weariness and melancholy mixed with flashes of optimism. For that reason 'River' 
is perhaps the weakest track on the record, despite being one of my favourite Mitchell 
songs - the original version, on 'Blue', emphasises the lyrics and the melody, with its 
unobtrusive, sparse piano accompaniment - song as story-telling. Rae, though, starts off 
in a strange mock-Cockney accent (she's from Leeds), and, crucially, she glides over a 
line which constitutes a sort of turning-point in the original ("I made my baby cry"), with 
almost no emotional emphasis. Mitchell herself does guest though, on 'Tea Leaf 
Prophecy' (the fact that she's only on one track indicates that it's more Hancock's project 
than hers) - her voice sounds a bit rougher round the edges than in her youth, especially at 
the beginning of the song, but she's still good. 

The band has a somewhat impressionistic approach to the songs, particularly on 
the purely instrumental tracks, which find the musicians subtly alluding to the melody in 
little fragments that float around in thickets of harmonies. This indirectness may 
disappoint some people on first listen, but as Hancock says, this is the record where he's 
paid attention to the lyrics as never before. 'Solitude' is unlike any other reading of the 
Duke Ellington standard I've heard in the way that it floats around the famous tune. 
'Nefertiti', reinvented from the repetitive original, is nice too, and has the same tension: a 
sense of disquiet at the same time as melodious and attractive beauty - only this time 
simmering very gently, rather than threatening to boil over as with Tony William's drum 
surges in the original. Listen out, in particular, for the way Hancock and Shorter respond 
to each other's trilling runs about a minute and a half in. 

'The Jungle Line' closes the album, but feels slightly out of place: Leonard Cohen 
reads the lyrics as a poem rather than singing them - a nice touch, although it might have 
benefited from a little singing as well. As it is, Cohen's mysterious, gravely narration 
make it feel almost as if it's come from a different project. There's much to admire about 
the track though, such as Hancock's piano coda, and the way he builds to a loud climax 
before throwing in the catchy main hook again, very quietly, like a ghostly afterthought. 

Overall, it lacks a certain something - variety, perhaps, as almost all the 
performances are down-tempo (with the exception of 'Edith and the Kingpin', which is 
taken at a fair clip, but still retains the same pensive mood). I think it's more than just 
that, though: Mitchell's music is deeply rooted in her experience (which frequently 
translates into universal human experience as well), both the highs and lows, the 
optimism and the pessimism, the naivety and the disillusionment, but this band interprets 
is as almost solely regretful, wistful, mellowing-out-with-a-glass-of-wine-with-the- 
curtains-drawn stuff. Despite doing this slight disservice to the material, it's impeccably 


played, and there are many moments of invention and quiet revelation in the 
improvisations that the musicians spin round the songs. The moodiness of Hancock's 
recent acoustic work suggests a certain narrowing in his expression, but 'The Joni Letters' 
is a step up from 'Possibilities' - not just because Hancock's returning to jazz, rather than 
pop (despite covering the material of a pop singer, albeit one heavily influenced by jazz, 
and one who played with leading jazzmen), but simply because it's a recording with more 
depth, subtlety, and atmosphere. 
(Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Whi-Music 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Do not Sing; A Door is Open; Force of 
Circumstance; Dudu; Sorry; To the Singer; The Lost 
City; He Did; Neighbourhood; Summer Again; Oilal; 
Questions for the War; I Will Move 
Personnel: Phil Hargreaves: voice, flute, cello, 
programming, found sounds; Glemi Weyant: Kestrel 
920, prepared guitar, piano, found sounds. 
Additional Information: Available as a free digital 
download (MP3 or FLAC format) from the website of 
Phil Hargreaves" Whi-Music label (http://www.whi-, or as a CD by request 

Phil Hargreaves is a 

saxophonist/flautist/vocalist/cellist/composer, active on Liverpool's improvised music 
scene, who has played with the Frakture Big Band and Simon H. Fell, and has made a 
fascinating CD with saxophonist Caroline Kraabel ('Where we Were: Shadows of 
Liverpool', on Leo Records), where improvisations recorded over a couple of years in 
various resonant acoustic locations around the city (town and concert halls, domes, 
churches, libraries, pubs, and even under bridges and in road tunnels) are edited into a 
single soundscape, in which the environment seems to play just as much of a role in 
dictating the nature of the music as the proclivities of the two musicians. 

'Friday Morning Everywhere' is a similar project, at least conceptually (it actually 
sounds quite different). Hargreaves and Glenn Weyant (a sound- sculptor based in 
Tuscon, Arizona) have been in online contact for a number of years through the discussion forum, and decided to collaborate, even though they have never 
actually met each other in person. Instead, they sent each other recordings, which were 
then edited, looped and layered. This might suggest the Cage-ian randomness of 'sight', 
an album by Keith Rowe's MIMEO (Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra), in which 
eleven musicians, spread across Europe, placed 5 minutes of sound anywhere those chose 
onto a blank CD-R; the 1 1 discs were then superimposed onto a single disc, which was 
released without any of them having heard the others' music. However, Hargreaves and 
Weyant opt for a more controlled approach. 

Probably the best person to explain more is Hargreaves himself, in a short 
explanation he has provided on the whi-music website: "the MO for this was that we each 


sent the other some solo/seed recordings including environmental recordings of our two 
locations. We then played along with them, manipulated them and generally do the things 
that people of our ilk are prone to do, and then posted them around and back till we felt 
we'd finished. In this event, I got to do the finishing off; the voices went on near the end 
of each track, and it was my decision to go for shorter pieces. . .Even though it was 
recorded, we're improvisers, and as such I (and I think we, as well) tried to keep to the 
spirit of improvisation, by respecting earlier decisions, and not over-interfering with the 
flow, letting the sound dictate the direction. Hopefully, as a result, it's a record of the time 
it was created in, and the people who lived in those times." 

Though the pieces are short, and a great deal of work has obviously gone into 
putting them together, that spontaneous feeling is there, something found in the best free 
improv: a mixture of craft and abandon, exploration and consolidation, innovation and 
tradition. That said, there aren't really any obvious frames of reference - this is pretty 
much unique, and quite hard to describe. Hargreaves puts in much plucking and scraping 
on the cello, and adds the occasional flute, while Weyant uses prepared guitar and piano, 
but most noticeable in the texture is the Kestrel 920, a self-designed sound- 
sculpture/instrument which he built from junk in his garage when his free jazz saxophone 
playing was disrupted by the arrival of a baby daughter. It has an extremely complicated 
working mechanism, which I won't go into now - suffice to say that it is primarily a 
percussion instrument, operated through strikes, strokes, and blows. 

It imparts quite a spacey feel, considerably bulking out the sound, and giving it 
almost orchestral proportions. Indeed, one thing this album has in abundance is 
atmosphere: layers are built up in complex, intertwining ways - the two-year period taken 
to make this is understandable on that basis. These pieces, though they have the feel and 
elements of improvised music (and Hargreaves has said he wanted to preserve this feel), 
are carefully crafted in ways that would not be possible in a live real-time performing 
environment, with just two people, and that says something about the wonders of modern 

(Above: Glenn Weyant playing the Kestrel 920.) 

Nevertheless, there are problems, apparent most obviously in the first track, 'Do 
Not Sing', which seems unsure as to exactly what it wants to be: with its moody, repeated 
pattern (which, on the surface, seems simple, but, if you listen closely, is actually built up 


of several subtly intertwining layers, probably deriving from the Kestrel 920), it sets itself 
up as a sophisticated pop song, and the fact that this is overlaid with vocals would seem 
to confirm that impression. However, these vocals are delivered in what one must 
presume is a deliberately bizarre way - for 'naive', or ironic effect? They don't really 
follow any melodic line, and they're not quite speech, not quite song (but not 
Schoenbergian sprechstime either). They would seem to indicate a deliberate 'weirdness', 
a deliberate 'experimentalism', yet this doesn't really fit with the 'backing track.' Perhaps 
the aim is to combine a more primitive, folky ethos with modernity; whatever the case, in 
the end, the piece is caught between two poles, and falls short of what it could have been. 

The most obvious function of the vocals is to give the tracks some focus, to 
reconcile them with traditional 'song' form, and to provide some sort of thematic and 
lyrical thread (although the subject matter of the poems that Hargreaves sings are pretty 
disparate, from love to war to singing itself). However, I'm not sure that this really works 
- he admits that they were added late on, and it might have been wiser to let the textures 
unfold more gradually, to reveal their details over a longer period. 

Consequently, the most successful tracks are generally the instrumental ones, such 
as the mysterious 'Lost City.' I realize that I shouldn't judge the vocals in terms of 
conventional standards (if we did this, Captain Beefheart would be dismissed out-of- 
hand), but I do still yearn for something slightly more melodic (though the style is 
admittedly effective, as Hargreaves' voice takes on particularly biting, gruff and harsh 
overtones when he assumes the persona of an unnamed warmonger on 'Questions for the 
War'). Still, even if the album is not entirely a success, it does conclude with an attractive 
piece, a quiet reverie that suggests resolution, as Weyant's Debussyian piano 
accompanies Hargreaves' poem about a peaceful moment lying in, of all places, a 
graveyard. There is definitely potential here for future collaborations, and I look forward 
with interest to what these men will do next. (Review by David Grundy) 

:■*? Bj 

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Label: Nonesuch 

Release Date: March 2007 

Tracklist: A Night Away/ The Sound of Water/ Fear 

and Trembling/ So Much Music Everywhere/ 

Towards the Lighl/ Long Before/ La Tierra Que No 

Olvida/ Santa Cruz Slacker/ Secret Beach/ Silent 

Movie/ Marta's Theme (from Passagio per il 


Personnel: Pat Metheny: electric guitar. 42-string 

Pikasso guitar (2), acoustic guitar (4), guitar synth 

(5,9); Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; 

Jeff Ballard: drums. 

Additional Information: Studio recording, New 

York, December 2005. Available on itunes. 

I probably don't need to include too many background details, as most readers 
will be familiar with them, so I'll present them in brief only: big-haired, multi Grammy- 
winning, 50-something fusion guitarist, who's made occasional forays into the avant- 
garde, meets thoughtful, classically-trained jazz pianist, best-known for his trio work and 



for daring to include covers of songs by artists like Nick Drake and Radiohead in his 
programmes. Last year saw the release of 'Metheny/Mehldau' (also on Nonesuch), which 
did exactly what it said on the tin, presenting the two playing together, mostly in duet, but 
with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard filling things out on a few 
numbers. Comparisons with Jim Hall and Bill Evans' famous 1960s collaboration 
inevitably reared their collective heads, and there was a general abundance of praise and 
positive adjectives, coupled with a few doubts about blandness and sameness in terms of 
texture and composition. 2007's follow-up reverses the balance of its predecessor; the 
majority of the tracks on 'Quartet' feature the expanded group, with Grenadier and 
Ballard, and are interspersed with a few duets. 

Well, clearly it takes some class and sensitivity to make this sort of thing work on 
a basic level: guitar and piano are not the most natural fit, and Metheny and Mehldau do 
have a pretty solid level of interaction; one will pick up a melodic idea from the other and 
transform it, leading onto another idea, and thus keeping up momentum and flow in the 
improvisation. Trouble is, it never really feels like anyone is stretching themselves: 
Ballard keeps a steady, rockish beat, Grenadier plays repetitive grooves and hooks to 
keep everything bubbling away at a gentle swing underneath, Metheny shows off some 
trademark licks and stylistic tics, Mehldau has a few melodic prods before settling for 
repetition to build excitement and merging into the background with the guitar. 

The pianist is perhaps a more interesting soloist than Metheny, if a little more 
erratic; he tends to favour right hand melodic lines with a minimum of left hand 
interjection, although his style is quite varied, and he'll sometimes rely on phraseology 
from blues or even country music. For me, the most interesting points in his playing 
come at the beginning of his solos, when it sometimes sounds as if his fingers are almost 
stumbling over the keys - a deliberate effect, as if he's hesitantly trying to say something, 
and getting it out imperfectly. It almost creates a sense of effort, of questing - but in the 
end, it's too languid for that: introspective, but not with the purifying melancholy of Bill 
Evans (often cited as an influence) - more aimless, less able to revel in beauty of sound 
(harmony/melodic contour). In an interview for the Guardian about the making of this 
album, he comments, "I want a spontaneous jazz solo to have a narrative arc, and not just 
be a pasted-together collection of ideas," but in a way, that's what his solos here do feel 
like - they start off strongly, before giving up and petering out, taking the line for a walk 
and then deciding to pack up and head home instead. The overall effect is rather frigid, 
and I think that's why I've never really been able to connect with his playing. It's very 
polished, very sophisticated and assured, but it leaves me cold. 

Such a fault is not just that of an individual musician, but of the album too. 
There's little emotional variety or depth; aside from Mehldau's faintly troubled 'Fear and 
Trembling (with Metheny on guitar synth throwing in a bit of electronic distortion in 
between those intensely irritating high-pitched, trailing-off notes he places at the end of 
phrases), it ambles along in a strange middle ground, caught between quiet meditation 
(which the initial, more successful album focused on) and vaguely buoyant mid tempo 
numbers. Recorded at the same sessions as the Metheny/Mehldau, these performances do 
feel a bit like off-casts from the first project, rather than a fully fledged sequel: on a set of 
undistinguished material, the Quartet never does anything more than go through the 
motions. It's all somewhat dispiriting, especially if you compare it to the work of 
someone like pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, ayoung-ish musician emerging as a leader in his 


own right from under the shadow of David Murray, in whose group he has played for 
some years. While Metheny and Mehldau's collaboration may be more polished and 
apparently effortless, it's ultimately far less compelling. It's not just how you say it, but 
what you say as well - this group knows exactly how to say things, how to give a 
pleasant, highly competent surface sheen, but when you strip that away, there's not really 
an awful lot there. (Review by David Grundy) 



•*F REE 

Label: Dreyfus Jazz 
Release Date: June 2007 
Tracklist: Blast; Funk Joint; Free; Strain; Milky 
Way; Pluck (Interlude); When I Fall In Love; Jean- 
Pierre; Higher Ground; What Is Hip? 
Personnel: Marcus Miller: bass, bass clarinet, 
soprano sax, keyboards, sitar, vocals; Gregoire 
Maret: harmonica; Patches Stewart: trumpet, 
flugelhorn; David Sanborn: alto sax; Tom Scott: 
tenor sax; Corinne Bailey Rae: vocals (3); Keb Mo: 
vocals; Gussie Miller, La Lah Hathaway: vocals; 
Bernard Wright, Bobby Sparks: organ, synths; 
Andrea Braido, Paul Jackson. Jr. : guitar; Teddy 
Cambell, Poogie Bell: drums 
Additional Information: A UK/Japan-only release, 
the album will shortly appear in America under the 
title 'Marcus. " The label will be Concord Records, 
and there will be four extra tracks. 

Corinne Bailey Rae also appears on this release, a much more pop-oriented album 
by multi-instrumentalist/producer Miller. She sounds much more at home in this setting, 
crooning away over the dream and easy soul groove of 'Free', though Miller's slap bass 
sound is a bit intrusive underneath and doesn't really suite the mood of the song. The 
cover turns Deneice William's original version into something more lilting and breezy, 
and I think I actually prefer it - it's got more zip but it's not too whizzy. Mind you, the 
closing alto sax solo lets things down a bit - it's laboured and unsubtle and relies on very, 
very cliched stock phrases. 

On the album as a whole, Miller continues the trend set by his previous studio 
outing, 'Silver Rain': slick, polished grooves, with much slap-bass, star guest vocal 
appearances and nothing very adventurous or memorable. The opener finds him playing 
sitar in addition to his multitude of other roles, but only in order to deliver a cheesy 
Oriental-flavoured reminiscent of the sort of unsuccessful, vaguely ethnic pop that gets 
thrown under the 'world music' banner. David Sanborn makes an appearance too, but only 
for a forgettable solo that he could have probably played his sleep. 

Some promise is shown during the opening section of 'When I Fall in Love', as 
Miller sets out the familiar melody with a lovely bass clarinet tone, but the song is soon 
spoiled by cheesy organ and synth-string sounds and a clunky drum beat that comes in 
for Miller's bass solo, which doesn't suit the mood at all. 

Miller doesn't seem to realise that there's to life than creating butt-shaking 
grooves. The best groove music does create these, true, but it does something with it that 
somehow feels important, rather than settling for Miller's slick superficiality. Take the 
following examples: James Brown's or Fela Kuti's raw sexuality and drive, Miles Davis' 


aggressive thickets of sounds from the mid-70s, Herbie Hancock's joyous extended jams, 
with a little bit of melancholy thrown in to the mix. Compared to these, Miller just feels 
too one track. On the other hand, when he attempts variety, as on 'When I Fall In Love', it 
comes off as cheesy and tacky. He's undoubtedly a highly skilled musician, and, as he 
showed on his earlier work, an arranger and composer of some skill, but he needs to get 
out of this easy coasting and go for something with a bit more depth to it. And he's never 
escaped those dated 1980s touches either. (Review by David Grundy) 


Roscoa Mitchell Composition /Improvisation Nos.1,2&3 

Label: ECM 

Release Date: March 2007 

Tracklist: I (from Composition/Improvisation 2); II 

(from C/1 2); III (from C/I 3); IV (from C/1 1); V 

(from C/I 2); VI (from C/I 2); VII (from C/I 2); VIII 

(from C/I 1); IX (from C/I 2). 

Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: soprano saxophone; 

Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophones; Anders 

Svanoe: alto and baritone saxophones; John 

Rangecroft: clarinet; Neil Metcalfe: flute; Corey 

Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn; Nils Bultmann: viola; 

Philipp Wachsmann: violin; Marcio Mattos: cello; 

Craig Taborn: piano; Jaribu Shahid: bass; Barry Guy: 

bass; Tani Tabbal: drums, percussion, Paul Lytton: 

drums, percussion. 

This release sees the mouth-watering 
prospect of a Transatlantic Art Ensemble, bringing together 5 members of Roscoe 
Mitchell's Art Ensemble of Chicago and Note Factory with 9 members of Evan Parker's 
Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, and has thus been eagerly awaited by improv fans since it 
was recorded in September of 2004. The unusual summit meeting took place as part of 
the "Unforeseen" symposium for improvised music in Munich, curated by the Munich 
Kulturreferat and the musicology department of the Ludwig Maximillian University, 
which examined real-time creativity for a week, with lectures, workshops, and 
commissioned works by Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker. The two composer/ 
improvisers assembled the 14-piece ensemble, which performed Parker's music on 
September 10th, and Mitchell's music on September 11th. 

A great concept, but only sporadically compelling in execution. The music quite 
consciously straddles the line between contemporary classical composition and free 
jazz/improvisation. For the most part it sounds like chamber music — all 14 musicians 
seldom play in unison. The one major exception is the Globe Unity Orchestra-like free- 
for-all in Part III, which begins sounding like a Muhal Richard Abrams composition, and 
then gives way to an extended Parker tenor solo, eventually joined by the rest of the band 
in a standard free improv blow-out. The strings (Philipp Wachsmann on violin, Nils 
Bultmann on viola, Marcio Mattos on cello and Barry Guy and Jaribu Shahid on bass) 
play a crucial role throughout in establishing a more classical-sounding timbre than one 
would expect from a Mitchell/Parker summit. Percussion (Paul Lytton and Tani Tabbal) 
is muted with a few dramatic exceptions. Woodwinds (Mitchell, Parker and Anders 
Svanoe on saxes, John Rangecroft on clarinet, and Neil Metcalfe on flute) are prominent 


throughout, intertwining with the strings to create a Second Viennese School 
(Schoenberg/Webern/Berg) soundscape. Corey Wilkes on trumpet and Craig Taborn on 
piano are also both prominently featured. Bizarrely enough, the complete 
'Composition/Improvisation' pieces don't seem to appear in their entirety on the record; 
if this is the case, we get a somewhat bizarre juxtaposition of different movements from 
different works (according to the ECM website, Parts I, II, V, VII and IX derive from C/I 
No. 2, Parts IV and VIII from C/I No. 1, and Part III derives from C/I No. 3.) Indeed, 
while the different tracks do seem to cohere together, it feels as if there's something 

I'm curious about the Evan Parker performance the night before — does it sound 
roughly similar? I suspect that the answer is no, and I hope ECM releases a companion 
disc soon. The problem with a one-time gathering such as this is that the musicians do not 
have time to develop an understanding of one another, develop a common language, and 
spur one another to their best efforts. While the playing is fine, it mainly sounds hesitant, 
perhaps too a result of the constraints imposed by Mitchell's compositions/frameworks 
for improvisation. Only Part VIII really takes off into some unpredictable intensity. There 
are many other passages of lovely chamber music, and I'm sure that other listeners who 
will find this more compelling than I do. 


Label: Lunar Module Records 

Release Date: December 2007 

Tracklist: G Train (for Duke Ellington); Inner City Blues; 

Hilda; For Pops (for Louis Armstrong); Blue Rondo (for 

Jackie McLean); Sonny"s Back (for Somiy Rollins) - (i) 

Sonny's Back! (ii) Clifford Browning 

Personel: Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Grachan Moncur III: 

trombone; Mitch Marcus: tenor sax; Ben Adams: 

vibraphone; Lukas Vesely: bass; Sameer Gupta: drums. 


Grachan Moncur III is not as well-known as he should be, but has been one of the 
most important jazz musicians and composers around, particular in the 60s when he was 
signed to Blue Note records and appeared on such revelatory albums as those by Jackie 
McLean's 'Pianoless Quartet.' Somewhat forced into the avant-garde, after being pretty 
much black-balled for demanding the rights to his own music, he then went on to record 
with the likes of Archie Shepp, but, for me, it is in the way he exemplified the 'inside- 
outside' approach that his real importance lies. 

This recent album came out of slightly unusual circumstances - Bay area 
vibraphone player Ben Adams posted a comment on Moncur' s MySpace page back in 
2006, to which Moncur responded with an invitation to play together. The result of this 
improbable collaboration, Inner Cry Blues, features homages to Duke Ellington, Louis 
Armstrong, Jackie McLean, and Sonny Rollins - very much a case of going back to jazz 
roots, rather than exploring the vanguard area with which he is more commonly associated. 


Like the Sonny Fortune album reviewed a few pages back, this is good, 
straightforward swinging music. The musical language spoken by the group synthesises 
elements from cool jazz and hard bop, largely dispensing with Moncur's post-bop/avant 
garde vocabulary. What results has a very different feel to Moncur's 60s Blue Note 
appearances - despite the title, which suggests raw emotion and the expression of persona 
feeling, the music itself is much more optimistic, more relaxed. Even the tracks dedicated 
to Moncur's late mother-in-law and to his daughter who died tragically at a young age 
show none of the bleakness of tracks like "Ghost Town"; on the contrary, there seems to 
be a strong element of warmth and hope in them. While this isn't necessarily a bad-thing, 
it does mean that the music lacks a certain tension and sense of musical exploration. 

That said, the group's focus on a comfortable, unassuming organic melodic flow 
is attractive: Adams claims to be teaching his quintet to behave with the looseness of a 
trio, and for the most part, this comes through. In addition, the album incorporates some 
fetching new compositions, especially the title track (which sounds like a New Orleans 
funeral dirge) and the jaunty tune "Hilda." 

Moncur seems to forgo the 'inside-out' approach on this one, instead settling for 
the 'inside' - but, after all, he went 'out' during his free jazz period, so he's entitled to 
come back 'in.' While this isn't nearly as compelling as his earlier music, it's probably 
not that helpful to constantly refer back to Moncur's earlier days: in its own right it's an 
attractive, straight-ahead jazz record - nothing more, nothing less. 

DAVID HURRAY black saint quartet 




Label: Justin Time 

Release Date: June 2007 

Tracklist: Sacred Ground; Transitions; Pierce City; 

Banished; Believe in Love; Family Reunion; The 

Prophet of Doom 

Personnel: David Murray: tenor sax, bass clarinet; 

Cassandra Wilson: vocals (tracks 1 & 7); Lafayette 

Gilchrist: piano; Ray Drummond: bass; Andrew 

Cyrille: drums. 

David Murray has reunited his Black Saint Quartet, sans earthly departed pianist 
John Hicks, whose shoes are filled by the able Lafayette Gilchrist. Along with Ray 
Drummond on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums, it's a fantastic lineup that on this 
album is also aided by the presence of Cassandra Wilson. 

Ms. Wilson acts as the album's bookends, performing the opener and closer, 
singing words penned by the prolific Ishmael Reed. Reed also wrote the liner notes, and 
admits that upon being asked to write lyrics for Cassandra Wilson, at the ripe age of 68 
and in awe of Ms. Wilson, all he could think was Wow! "Like some zit afflicted 
adolescent" (his words). 

'Sacred Ground' sets a hushed backdrop for Wilson's sensuous vocal stylings. 
Along with her gorgeous voice, the message is at the forefront: "We've come back to 
claim our dearest legacy/we've come back to claim our very own/to you they're just a box 
full of bones/but to us they're our loved ones who shouldn't be left alone." Reed drew his 


inspiration for Sacred Ground from a film about the banishment of thousands of 
American blacks from their homes between 1890 and 1930 in the South and Midwest; the 
instrumental track 4, 'Banished', is based upon the same source. 

The sensitive balladry accompaniment that floats behind Wilson's lyrics during 
the verses morphs into a loose, freer mid section of the piece with Murray on bass 
clarinet. Lafayette Gilchrist is phenomenal on this track and throughout the album; it 
makes me wonder why his solo efforts haven't clicked more for me, as I've also enjoyed 
his playing on the other recent David Murray Quartet with strings album that was 
released a while back. Furthermore, when I saw the Murray Quartet here in Chicago a 
while back, Gilchrist was a highlight of what I otherwise found to be a quite lacklustre 
show. But I digress.... 

Wilson's vocals re-enter for a refrain that continues the upward trajectory of the 
piece, which ultimately coming to a peak before sliding back down to the song's original 
restrained dynamic, with a final verse by Cassandra. The band really nails the ballad feel 
and mood, which in a jazz setting is like nothing else in the world for me. Certainly a 
bold scene setter for the remainder of the album. 

'Transitions' is a solid piece that typifies what I've come to expect of David 
Murray (which isn't necessarily a bad thing): a solid instrumental piece with a nice head, 
and then a form over which Murray blows with his liberal sense of time, phrasing, and 
singular approach to the horn. Like him or not, as has been said in previous discussions 
about the merits of David Murray, he has certainly created his own bag on the horn that is 
instantly identifiable. 

This is as good a time as any to mention the fact that I love Andrew Cyrille's 
drumming. His feel, use of space, and sense of swing all really do it for me and I find 
myself honing in on his playing throughout the album. He plays an excellent solo in this 
track that lays bare his sense of melodicism on the drums. 

'Pierce City' is a stand out track on the album, featuring Murray at his best, one of 
best solos I've heard form him on record; intense playing without sacrificing some 
dynamic interplay with the ensemble. 

Utilizing the Greek mythological Cassandra as an inspiration for the lyrics, 
Ishmael Reed wrote the final track, 'The Prophet of Doom', which features Ms. Wilson 
singing over a straight blues form. It's a laid back feel that even features some finger 
snapping as Cassandra sings about her mythological namesake. 

I think this is a great modern jazz album. It's not revolutionary in terms of 
innovation, but it's a fantastic recording in the idiom that has a strong message to go 
along with the great playing by the whole band. It will get a lot more mileage in my 
collection than Murray's previous release, Waltz Again, which was perhaps more novel 
but to my ears lacked some essential element that fuels longevity in listening. 

(Review by Daniel Melnick, originally published at 

htti)://soundsloi) david murrav) 


Label: Clean Feed 

Release Date: August 2007 

Tracklist: Staring at the Sun; Dancing with the wind; Morning / Harvest; Evening; Point Sketch; Vespers; 

Voices from the past; On the shore Personnel: Jeff Kaiser. John Fumo: trumpet; Mark O'Leary-electric 

guitar. 12 string acoustic guitars; Alex Cline: drums, percussion, shells, sticks, stones. 


Guitarist Mark O'Leary's name may not be the first thing you look for when 
considering a new record - part of that may be due to his being based in Cork, Ireland, 
which is hardly the most well-know centre for left-field music in Europe. Nevertheless, 
he's worked prolifically over the past two years, releasing six albums in that time, none 
of which feature the same line-up (although, interesting, all are trio records). As a further 
indication of his versatility and ability to experiment, he's played with everyone from 
Paul Bley to Sunny Murray, Han Bennink, Matthew Shipp, Henri Texier and electronics 
artists Gunter Muller, as well as performing Norwegian and Swedish folk music. 

The line-up on this record departs from the trio format for a very quartet with a 
very unusual combination of instruments: O' Leary on guitar, Alex Cline on drums and a 
double trumpet front line consisting of Jeff Kaiser and John Fumo. Apart from Jacek 
Kochan's "Another Blowfish", with Eric Vloeimans and Piotr Wojtasik on trumpet, I'm 
not aware of any other quartet with a double trumpet front line. 

The music on this record is light, spacious, elegant, ... I would almost say the 
musical equivalent of high quality champagne, very tasty, with bubbles, something to 
savour with every sip. The guitar plays a very prominent role on the whole CD, often 
with a very low tone, reminiscent of some of John Abercrombie's albums, but more 
avant-garde, more creative, with the two trumpets and the drums adding shades of sound 
that bring depth and sculptural relief to the music, even if they're pushed a little to the 
back in the sound editing, a nice touch which adds to the overall atmosphere. 

The whole quartet is absolutely brilliant. Alex Cline's playing is precise, accurate, 
accentuating loosely, performing the difficult feat of drumming on music that is 
essentially without explicit rhythm. The two trumpets use every shade and sound their 
instruments can produce, in various intensities, volume changes and lengths, because 
there is mostly no melody to hear - texture, tonal changes and contrast is all there is, 
especially exemplified by the long title track. 

O'Leary himself gets every possible sound out of his guitar as well, and whether 
it's plain acoustic, or one of the many effects on his electric guitar, his playing is not 
focused on the playing itself but on the musical moods he creates, and it's also coherent 
throughout the album, regardless of how he uses his instrument. O'Leary doesn't hesitate 
to push his foot switches once in a while, bringing scorching fusion-like solos, pushing 
the trumpets and the drums to high levels of intensity as in "Point Sketch", but most of 
the music is subdued, tentative, fragile, creating open-ended soundscapes, composed with 
skill and feeling, building layers of music to create a very distinct mood, which is 
nostalgic, sad, but also reverent, jubilant or mysterious at times. You can hear seagulls 
and whales, or even sirens, the surf in the distance, or lapping waves close-by, ... that's 
how evocative the music is without needing to try to imitate those sounds. 

Most of it sounds too beautiful to be the result of spontaneous improvisation, too 
carefully crafted to have been left to chance, but then again, it sounds too open to be 
composed, and these are great musicians, so you can't tell. One could also argue whether 
this is jazz or not, but asking the question is irrelevant, and answering it even more. This 
is absolutely excellent music. That's the most important thing. 

(Review by Stef Gijssels) 



Label: Rogue Art 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Alphaville Main Theme; Journey to the End of the Night; Natasha's Theme; Interrogation; 
Alpha 60; Doctor Badguy; Oceanville Evening; Civilization of Light; Outlands; Natasha's Theme II 
Personnel: Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Rob Brown: alto sax; William Parker: bass; Hamid Drake: drums; 
Mazz Swift: violin; Jessica Pavone: viola; Julia Kent, Shiau-Shu Yu: cello; Leena Conquest: vocals (on 
Natasha's Theme' & 'Natasha's Theme IF). 

The great thing about William Parker is that he doesn't stop looking for new 
approaches to music, as long as they're acoustic and based on genuine interplay between 
real musicians. On this CD he brings a double quartet, his usual band consisting of 
himself on bass, Rob Brown on alto sax, Lewis Barnes on trumpet and Hamid Drake on 
drums, augmented with Mazz Swift on violin, Jessica Pavone on viola, Julia Kent on 
cello and Shiau-Shu Yu on cello. Leena Conquest guests on vocals on "Natasha's Theme" 
and "Natasha's Theme 2". Or, if you want, a male quartet and a female quartet. 

Like Matthew Shipp's tribute to Jean Genet on the French RogueArt label, this 
one is a tribute to and inspired by another great French piece of art, Jean-Luc Godard's 
movie "Alphaville". In this movie, the futuristic city Alphaville is dominated by the logic 
of computers and ruled by an evil scientist named Von Braun, who has outlawed love and 
self-expression. And "love and self-expression" are of course themes close to Parker's 
heart and they have permeated his career and art. 

Above: an image from Jean Luc-Godard's film 'Alphaville', the inspiration for Parker's album. 

Adding the string quartet helps to evocate the music of the film itself, with the 
eery tension and typical movie suspense full of romantic drama and sentimental 
outbursts. But the strings here are luckily more modern, more avant-garde, offering a 


great contrast with the free jazz musicians, sometimes limiting themselves to pizzicato 
chattering in the background, sometimes driving heavy unisono lines accentuating the 
jazz solos, with an especially gloomy and menacing counterpoint in the long "Dr. 

The overall effect is utterly bizarre, creating a kind of busyness which is too much 
to grasp at once, because there is too much going on, but still in a coherent way, 
following its own logic. The jazz dominates, and it's great as you can expect from these 
artists and there are times, especially in the longer pieces that the strings let them do their 
thing, leaving some breathing space, but never for long : there they are again, to chase the 
jazz quartet forward, jabb it in the sides, kick it back, emphasize it, play along in 
moments of frenzy, move it to weird territory, or offer shades and an overall darkness 
that is highly unusual, to say the least. 

Without specifically saying that the string quartet would represent the cold 
futuristic logic of the evil scientist and the jazz band the proponents of love and free 
expression (or female vs male :-), at least the tension between good and bad and the 
overall mood of the film is well-captured by the concept of the double band. And the 
music is excellent to. Like Parker's "Requiem", this is one you should listen to often 
before you can appreciate it to the full. (Review by Stef Gijssels) 


Label: Sunnysude Release Date: August 2007 Tracklist: Train; Arjuna; Pop Song # 1; Viva las Vilnius; 
Zea; Togo Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor sax, bass cclarinet; Craig Taborn: Fender Rhodes electric piano; 
Adam Rogers: electric guitar; Nate Smith: drums. 


For the last half century, the tenor saxophone has been the top dog in jazz, the 
instrument that carries the most heft in the community. It's the heavyweight voice that 
typically isn't cute or clever. Not many tenor saxophonists will settle for being coy. 

Chris Potter, album-by- album and show-by-show over the last ten years, has 
made a bid for the tenor title. He has been playing with the best bandleaders (from Dave 
Holland to Steely Dan), and he has been leading his own potent groups. Though Potter 
does not possess a larger-than-life persona, he builds gargantuan solos with the 
personality of a freight train: slow at first, then surging and bold, and finally explosive 
and spectacular. Potter's band Underground is his most hard-hitting outfit, and this 
document of the band's tenure in the legendary Greenwich Village basement club bristles 
with daring and funk energy. 

Follow the Red Line features not only Potter's tenor but also a fully integrated 
rhythm section: Craig Taborn's Fender Rhodes electric piano, Adam Rogers on electric 
guitar, and Nate Smith's drums. This is a band that could court cliche — an electric 
"fusion" band that integrates funk rhythms with jazz — and that would seem to be lacking 
an important tool: a bass player. But, in fact, the opposite is true. Under-ground is a band 
that pulses with invention. With Potter out front, the band is precisely the opposite of 
generic. Each player is pressed into varied service: Taborn plays bass lines as well as 
ripping chords, Rogers is both distorted and clean, choppy and legato, and Smith is 
polyrhythmic fallout — a dizzying clatter of arms and legs in flowing groove. 

Even compared to the band's first studio outing from early 2006, this is a 
progression. While the tunes still begin with intelligently composed, carefully voiced 
arrangements, there is a boiling beneath the surface that rises quickly enough to the 
surface. On "Arjuna", for example, the ensemble section bristles with Smith's nasty 
stickwork, then Taborn's solo starts at a simmer and starts to flare up as the punches of 
left-hand Rhodesplay is complicated by Rogers stuttering guitar. When Potter enters, it is 
predictably with his own stuttering 'plosions of breath, adding another pointellistic layer 
to the polyrhythm. The solo climaxes in a series of serpentine rips that alternate with 
architectural steps through the harmony. 

Equally impressive are the more consonant moments, such as the statement of 
melody on "Pop Song #1", where a pleasant and inevitable tune is set amidst a flow of 
surprising chords. Rogers plays with a pungent simplicity, and Taborn patiently waits for 
each downbeat before playing his gospel-infused chords. On Potter's solo, however, the 
band gets into an improbably hot funk groove that seems to build off the basic guitar line. 
"Viva las Vinius" is first built off a single rhythm lick, and the band seems ready to ride 
the thing through the whole performance. It's even more of the treat, then, when Potter's 
solo begins in a slowed-down free time that very gradually builds from slow and quiet 
back to the full strength of the original groove. 

It's an extra treat that Follow the Red Line allows Potter a long stretch for his 
outstanding sound on bass clarinet. Bass clarinet is a doublers specialty, of course, and 
inevitably gets jazz fans thinking about Eric Dolphy. So it's wonderful to hear 
Underground place the oddball horn in a Rhodes-and-guitar pop ballad on "Zea" and then 
allow it to begin "Togo" in a Bennie Maupin vibe, muttering from its lower register as 
the rhythm section slowly picks up on the percussive groove. This last tune eventually 
gives way to a one-chord jam groove (and a burning tenor solo) that suggests how 


Potter's electric band ultimately converges with the likes of Medeski, Martin, and Wood 
on the one hand and class Sonny Rollins on the other. 

The magic in Red Line is ultimately in the drama that each player brings to his 
solos, each of which builds like a scene from a Hitchcock film. Top honours, as so often, 
go to Taborn's versatile Rhodes playing. But they are Potter's fiendish tunes and his 
group conception. In a year that saw the passing of Michael Brecker, Potter seems to 
have emerged as a steely-toned tenor player who blends harmonic adventure with groove. 
It's not a question of talking about Potter as a Brecker successor — they're totally 
different players and, frankly, I think that Potter's range and imagination is wider. But 
it's a joy to hear this young master make a hard-edged, Breckeresque step forward, with 
what is a very fine record. 
(Review by Will Layman) 


Label: Archie Ball 
Release Date: July 2007 

Tracklist: CD ONE - 'The Reverse'. The Reverse (alternate 
version 1); Revolution (Mama Rose); Burning bright; Trippin'; 
Time stood still; Intertwining spirits; La manzana; Eva; Pannonica; 
The Reverse; The Reverse (alternate version 2); CD TWO - 'Live 
in Souillac' (2002). Hope Two; Call Him; Do you want to be 
saved; Ujaama; Rest Enough. 

Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor & soprano sax, voice; Tom 
McLung: piano; Wayne Dockery: bass; Steve McCraven: drams/ 
Guests (on 'The Reverse') - Stephane Guery: guitar; Chuck D: 
voice. DISC 2 - Shepp, with Amina Claudine Myers: piano, voice; 
Cameron Brown: bass; Ronnie Burrage: drums. 

The first disc is a pretty ragbag collection of studio recordings, most notable for 
featuring Chuck D, lead vocalist of Public Enemy, and an eloquent and politically 
sensitive rapper whose concerns tie in with those of Shepp and the 60s 'New Thing'. After 
Shepp appeared in with Public Enemey at a press conference and concert they gave in 
Paris, he went to cut these tracks with Chuck at the studio. Unfortunately, they're pretty 
mediocre, with the rapper improvising some bland, pat lyrics about jazz history and how 
great Shepp is, over some uninspiring music. It doesn't seem to have been a particularly 
productive session: several alternate takes are included. Perhaps things would have been 
more successful if Shepp had tried to fit into a more directly hip-hop oriented context, as 
he's tried with his (unrecorded) Born Free Band, which features French rapper Vicelow 
and Jalal, of the Last Poets - although that's hardly a roaring success either. 

Overall, I think it would be fair to say that Shepp is not the artist he once was; 
politically radical (to an extent) he may still be, but musically he's become increasingly 
conservative. That's not necessarily a problem: witness Anthony Braxton's treatment of 
Monk and Charlie Parker, toned down a bit from his avant-garde work, but with no 
compromise to artistic integrity, and absolutely no blandness. Shepp could be a 

pretty ferocious performer, if a bit erratic, and he could have perhaps found a happy 
medium between the avant-garde and the traditional stuff that he always seemed to want 
to lean towards: a little known trio record, taped in Montreux, called 'Steam', finds him 
ripping through standards, Monk tunes, and originals, without the extreme dissonances of 


his free jazz work, but with all of its intensity. In fact, his affinities are less with the be- 
bop that so many of the avant-garde jazzers came from (Dolphy, Braxton - to a certain 
degree, Ornette, Jimmy Lyons especially), and more with earlier styles - the vocal 
extravagance and impishness of Fats Waller, the tenor tones of Ben Webster and 
Coleman Hawkins, marching bands, old-style balladry (with a distinctive twist). In his 
best work, he manages to balance invention and innovation with such tendencies, 
producing beautiful performances like his impressionistic smears on Duke Ellington's 'In 
a Sentimental Mood', from the 1965 album 'On this Night.' 

More recently, though, the increasing traditionalism seems to have diluted, rather 
than rooted his music, and it's hard to find many epiphanies in what he does now, which 
is all a bit samey (whereas before, the criticism could have been that he was perhaps too 
erratic, too multifaceted). The bands he surrounds himself with are always efficient, if not 
in the absolute top-rank of jazz improvisers - people like Kenny Werner, Santo di Briano, 
Tom McLung, Ronnie Burrage, Cameron Browne - and there is something of a feeling of 
coasting (which also crept into the 70s and 80s music of Pharoah Sanders). For a man 
who had so much potential, to have become, essentially, a middleweight posing as a 
heavyweight, as a result of past glories, is a bit of a shame. 

All that said, the second disc, recorded live in 2002, is very listenable, and one of 
the few opportunities we have of getting to hear the band he's been playing with for the 
past few years. 'The New Archie Shepp Quartet', on the Italian Pao records, also 
documents this group, and manages to make something fresh out of 'Mama Rose', one of 
the most over-performed pieces in his repertoire (it's on disc one of 'Gemini', and 
numerous other albums). However, it's pretty hard to get hold of, even online. For this 
reason, then, the live portion of 'Gemini' serves a useful documentary function as much 
as anything. 

Shepp's quartet plays what I suppose could be best characterised as post-bop, with 
ex-AACM pianist Amina Claudine Myers adding a distinctive gospel flavour (and 
sharing a vocal duet with Shepp on 'Call Him' - her voice is very passable, if not the 
most distinctive; Shepp's, on the other hand, as people who regularly buy his records will 
be able to tell you, is distinctive but not really passable (unless you're in the mood)). You 
could maybe call it a 'primitive' style, and, whatever its weaknesses, its got spirit; plenty 
of blues holler and guttural roar with heavy- vibrato - a bit like his tenor playing, I 
suppose, but not really to my taste. 

Taken as a whole, the album offers no real revelations. I quite enjoy it when the 
mood takes me, but it's obvious that this is not up there with the music of Shepp's 
heyday. For a more interesting example of his recent work, check out 'Kindred Spirits', a 
recording with African percussion group Dar Gnawa, also on Archie Ball 
(Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Brownswood 

Release Date: July 2007 

Tracklist: Dawn; A.I.E; Makuroke; Mashiroke; We Want More! ! ! ! ! ; Zambezi; Red Clay; Hype of Gold; 

Pluto; The Party; Funky Goldman; The Slaughter Suite; Scales; Sahara 

Personnel: Tabu Zombie: trumpet; Motoharu: sax; Josei: piano; Akita Goldman: bass; Midorin: drums; 

Shacho: agitator. 



l\ n 

Following on from last year's last superb 
'Pimp Master', Soil and Pimp look to be 
gaining a bit of recognition - largely, 
ccCc jhlVJC 9 ■ one would suspect, due to the advocacy 

" "^ ' ___ of Radio 1 DJ Grilles Peterson (this 

comes out, in the UK, on his own 
Brownswood label). Still, their releases 
are still pretty hard to get hold of, and 
the whole Japanese jazz movement of 
which they are a part is only gradually 
emerging from being an underground 
scene (artists like Quasimode and 
Sleepwalker, who create music with the 
same ethos, don't have much of a profile 
outside Japan at all, or so it seems to 
me). I suspect that this movement will 
run its course fairly soon, and be no 
more than a passing trend - I'm not sure that there are that many places it can go, or 
wants to go - but, for the moment, it is a true breath of fresh air, blown into the 
stultifying worlds of inhabited by the sort of unadventurous singers adored by Michael 
Parkinson, or the bebop/postbop that seems to be pretty much de rigeur on the jazz 
festival circuit, here in the UK. 

In a moment, I'll get onto what it is that makes Japanese jazz, and Soil and Pimp 
in particular, so refreshing, but before that, I'll note that this is now S & P's fifth full 
release (not including singles/EPs, and the like), and it slightly lacks the fire that their 
previous albums had, with less compelling performances and tunes. I suspect that what 
will happen is that, as with the Bad Plus (who also released an album this year, the so-so 
'Prog'), or EST's interminably samey albums, what was initially a fresh and exciting 
concept, will become tired through overuse, losing its appeal because it is never really 
moved on or developed. 

Nevertheless, thought the rot may be just beginning to set in on 'Pimpoint', it 
doesn't have too much of an adverse effect - this is still immensely enjoyable music, and 
S & P's gimmicks are still fun and involving enough not to seem too much like 
gimmicks. Their music is both retro and modern, treating the jazz of the past in a 
genuinely innovative way. Basically, the group is set up as a standard quintet -sax, 
trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, with the occasional presence of 'agitator' Shacho, the 
club promoter who initially brought the group together, and whose contribution seems to 
involve whipping the crowd up or making random interjections through a megaphone, 
and standing around smoking cigars in the band's video. They play bebop, but at twice 
the speed, to create a 'rock feel without having to subsume jazz content to the simplified 
harmonic language and boring cliches of rock music (as with the dire, and much over- 
praised Acoustic Ladyland). 

All the musicians are fantastic players, and, on this album, the sax soloing of 
Motoharu in particular stands out. His rough-hewn tone is several notches down from the 
gruff screaming of a Brotzmann or the sanctified hollers of a David S. Ware; there's 
perhaps a bit of Jackie McLean's sourness in there, maybe even an echo of David 


Sanborn in the combination of a hard-edged sound with a populist feel, but Motoharu's 
style is distinctively his own. 

Much of the excitement of the music comes from the fact that it is delivered at 
such a dazzling speed, and variety isn't too much of an issue when they can consistently 
keep octane levels so high. Live, they must be a fantastic prospect - far more involving 
than the sort of gig where the regulars sit around head-nodding over yet another Charlie 
Parker-esque solo on some jazz standard! In terms of atmosphere, the aim is clearly more 
for the euphoria of a club environment - the wonder is that this is achieved without 
compromising on solos, the odd dissonance, or the use of jazz vocabulary. 

On 'Pimpoint', though, they seem to be trying to broaden out the sound a little 
here, and that actually makes things less, rather than more interesting. At times there's a 
more funky, James Taylor Quartet-esque feel, which may please some - although I'm not 
sure acid jazz is really S & P's strongpoint. 'Funky Goldman,' as the title might indicate, 
sees them opt for an easy funk groove, soft electric piano, and even the slightly surreal 
touch of vocodered vocals: for the latter as much as anything, it reminded me of one of 
Herbie Hancock's dodgy late 70s 'disco' records like 'Feets, Don't Fail Me Now,' or 

Thankfully that mis-step is limited to just one track, but when they try the typical 
S & P approach on Freddie Hubbard's 'Red Clay', it does rather show up the essential 
one-dimensionality of their approach (which the novelty of treating the trumpet with echo 
effects doesn't really redeem). I know it's not what they're trying to do, but I do 
sometimes long for just a sprinkling more sensitivity and depth - true, they do throw in a 
few moments of some delicacy and they can be quite subtle and waltz-like ('Hype of 
Gold'), but such respite doesn't last for long. Oh well, notwithstanding a rather lovely 
version of 'Mo Better Blues' on their last album, I guess ballads ain't what they're about... 

What they are about, though, is exemplified on the superb fourth piece, 
'Mashiroke', which feels 'slightly Latin', as Roland Kirk might have put it. For sheer 
joyful exuberance it's hard to beat, and I for one can't resist the combination of a great 
melody, a propulsive, locked-in rhythm section and soloists who know precisely what 
buttons to press and when. Jazz hasn't sounded as convincingly like party music since the 
40s or 50s, I suspect, and, in making that happen once more, S & P have succeeded 
where so many dire fusion/ smooth jazz efforts have failed. So enjoy this for the 
unabashed entertainment it provides. (Review by David Grundy) 



Label: Red Eye Music 

Release Date: June 2007 

Tracklist: (Disc 1) - First Thread; Second Thread; Third 

Thread; Fourth Thread; (Disc 2) - Fifth Thread; Sixth 

Thread; Seventh Thread 

Personnel: Keith Tippett: piano; Julie Tippetts, Maggie 

Nicols, Vivien Ellis: voice; Paul Dunmall, Simon Picard, 

Larry Stabbins: tenor sax; Lee Goodall, Elton Dean, 

Gianluigi Trovesi: alto sax; Pino Minafra, Gethin 

Liddington. Jim Dvorak. Mark Charig: trumpet; Paul 

Rutherford, Malcolm Griffiths. Dave Amis: trombone; Oren 

Marshall: tuba; Paul Rogers: bass; Tony Levin, Louis 

Moholo-Moholo: drums 


There has been a tendency among jazz writers of recent times to sideline 
musicians like Keith Tippett, and perhaps even snigger at them behind their expensively 
gloved fingers; 2007, and he still thinks that free improvisation and rubbing wine glasses 
together constitutes the way forward - after all, it's so old hat, isn't it, all that revolution 
and unity talk, it's so early seventies, all a bit of a childish frippery (pun intended), quite 
out of keeping with the happy and fulfilled society we have now (i.e. that this sort of 
thing was fine with Vietnam but makes us feel awkward in times of Iraq). 

Or, as with Scott Walker or Kate Bush or any other musician of genuine worth, 
you could argue that Keith Tippett has simply pursued and developed his singular 
multidimensional line as rigorously and generously as possible. While the bulk of his 
work in recent years has concentrated on his solo piano improvisations/compositions, or 
his long-standing free jazz quartet Mujician, he has never stopped developing his ideas, 
and the comparative lack of releases from his larger ensembles has inevitably been due to 
economics rather than unwillingness. 

For the last decade or so his Tapestry Orchestra has been his large ensemble of 
choice; he burst onto the scene in 1970 amid much curious publicity with the gigantic 
Centipede (100 legs = 50 musicians, although 55 players are listed on the published 
recording of Septober Energy and live performances would swell the numbers up even 
further), an assemblage of all the musicians with whom he was working at the time, that 
glorious time without boundaries or genre creeds, so that groups like Soft Machine, King 
Crimson, Nucleus, Patto and the Blossom Toes are represented either in greater part or in 
full, plus most of the British and South African New Thing contingents with whom 
Tippett was playing regularly and many others besides. While essentially an unwieldy 
beast - on the Septober Energy album there are among the personnel three drummers, six 
bassists, eleven saxophonists and a full classical string section - and while Septober 
Energy itself can now be viewed as a brave but only partially coherent sequence of 
"events," it, along with the near concomitant Escalator, helped set my ideas of music in 
motion, and watching them in performance at the London Lyceum, aged seven, is an 
experience I have still not forgotten. 

Seven years later, at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, my parents and I saw his 
next big band, Ark, a far more manageable 22-strong ensemble (the name stems from the 
fact that there were two of each instrument in its line-up), performing his new four-part 
suite Frames: Music For An Imaginary Film. At the height of post-punk, here was an 
unashamed extension - not a throwback, but an extension - of 1967 ideals, full of drones, 
incantations and occasional outbursts of violence as well as surprisingly straightforward 
post-Ellington jazz voicings, sloppy in the Christian Wolff/Carla Bley sense, but airtight 
when it needed to be. The subsequent Ogun double album - like Septober Energy, still 
available on CD - is a work of unalterable but very touchable beauty. 

Tapestry was formed in the nineties, and the 2CD set Live At Le Mans which has 
just been released was recorded in 1998. In certain circles this performance has been 
spoken of with a sense of awe comparable to Mingus at UCLA in '65, but Tippett has 
until now been resolute about not releasing it; the idea was to get the band into the studio, 
smooth out the rougher compositional edges of the extended work {First Weaving) and 
put down a definitive recording, but this being an era of the coldest rationalism, 
economics again ruled this out of the question - as indeed, and far more sadly, did the 
passing of Tippett' s first saxophonist of choice, Elton Dean, early last year from 


complications arising from heart and liver disease, not yet sixty; and I suspect that this 
may have been the decisive factor in the performance's eventual release. 

While there are undeniably rough edges to the structure of First Weaving, both 
concept and performance are so strong on this record that it simply becomes a joy to hear 
Tippett heading and directing a large group in the way only he can. This is a 
comparatively compact twenty-piece line-up, though its resources are so skilfully 
marshalled that frequently the orchestra sounds as though double that number are 
playing, without causing the occasional logjams to which Centipede, even at their most 
powerful, were prone. There is also, as is similarly characteristic of Tippett, a decided 
focus on the orchestra as one unit rather than a collection of soloists since there are very 
few soloists throughout the work and quite a lot of collective improvisation work by 
individual sections, or duets and trios by various members. 

Always a fan of Mingus, Tippett nevertheless catches the unwary listener off 
guard practically from the beginning of the "First Thread" where, after some call and 
response between the three singers and the two drummers (Louis Moholo and Tony 
Levin; now that's what I call a battalion) - the singers uttering "ka-ta ka-ta" like a 
happier Fuckhead sample from The Drift, the drummers responding with stiff military 
rolls - the band launches into a joyful gospel vamp (very "Better Git Hit In Your Soul") 
over which we have two ecstatic duets, by saxophonists Lee Goodall and Simon Picard, 
and then by Gethin Liddington (a student of Tippett' s who is aligned to the F-Ire 
Collective which also spawned Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland et al) on trumpet and 
trusty veteran Malcolm Griffiths on trombone, deliciously sliding over each other's 
smears like sheets of chocolate satin. 

Then the mood darkens for the "Second Thread," one of Tippett' s great, slowly 
escalating incantations; over low, doubtful horns, the singers intone Julie Tippetts' 
unrepentantly spiritual lyrics (memes like "Overpowering" and "Overwhelming" 
gradually mutating into "Oh! Forgiving" and "Oh! Relief). Then Maggie Nicols is left 
alone, over a brooding improv trio of flute (Goodall), bass clarinet (Gianluigi Trovesi) 
and saxello (Dean), initially offering a disturbing mutation of "Lili Marlene" before 
dissolving into her sotto voce flurries of contained ecstasy. 

The Third and Fourth Threads are very closely linked; both take Mingusian post- 
bop melodic/rhythmic heads as their starting point before developing in other unexpected 
ways. In the Third Thread this leads to a furious debate between three snarling tenors 
(Picard, Dunmall and Larry Stabbins) which is eventually resolved by a beautiful, 
balladic alto solo from Elton. The waltz fragment glimpsed in this section (reminiscent of 
"Don't Be Afraid, The Clown's Afraid Too") is developed more fully and sinisterly in 
the Fourth Thread, as various band members, including Dunmall on a squealing set of 
Northumbrian bagpipes, scribble and growl intensely in front of the backdrop; but this 
too leads (following a sighing duet between Marc Charig's cornet and Paul Rutherford's 
trombone) into a lyrical ballad section with a fantastic alto solo from Trovesi, the Italian 
perfectly capturing the sugar/poison blend which seemed to be a characteristic of the 
Dean/Pukwana/Osborne/Warleigh/Watts school of turn-of-the-seventies Brit improv alto playing. 

The Fifth Thread, and the second CD, begin with an astonishing prayer for peace, 
written and lead sung by Julie Tippetts - and how this remarkable woman has suffered 
for following her husband into the world of contemporary improvised music; even now 
her activities arouse derisive reactions from cowering nonentities like Will Hodgkinson, 
side-sniping in broadsheets about sixties girl singers who ended up somewhere different, 


eagerly spoonfeeding the showbiz demographic necessary to preserve the facade that 
process and destination do not matter in music, as if they weren't indispensable to an 
ideal society - "Almighty..." the trio quietly sing, "hear my breath on the wind. . I 
can't. . ." (meaningful pause) ". . .let you go." It is breathtaking and transfers into the 
world of the holy when, as the trio begin to improvise, the rest of the orchestra begin to 
play wind-up music boxes; a forest, a blessing of an orchard of wind chimes underlying 
carefully controlled harmonies of which Brian Wilson would (if he'd followed up, or 
been allowed to follow up, the implications of "George Fell Into His French Horn") have 
been rightly proud. 

Towards the end the singers move into a medieval roundelay, which itself 
provides the segue for the dazzling Sixth Thread, which opens with a merry estampie 
sung by the third member of the trio, the great Vivien Ellis, in tandem with Oren 
Marshall's tuba, even though its merriment is darkly ambiguous ("Scattering nightly a 
dream to the sleeper/Gathering lightly, she leans to the Reaper") as her song is 
interrupted by crosscurrents of brass familiar from the beginning of the fourth section of 
Frames. The music then explodes into sterling, glistening beams of controlled chaos, 
which somehow manages to encompass a 500 mph trumpet solo by Pino Minafra - 
played through a megaphone (!) - which sounds like the ghost of Mongezi Feza trying to 
regain contact with Earth, an utterly beyond-bizarre vocal breakout into "Let's Face The 
Music And Dance," a grumbling stomach of a conversation between the trombone 
section and Marshall's tuba, dancehall chants of "Seven Eleven" and squeals, honks and 
howls aplenty. Throughout the double-drum approach is shown to work with brilliant 
force as Moholo and Levin hammer away as though typing with scythes. 

After that Tippett can only tie the composition up, and Seventh Thread is perhaps 
the section which could have done with a little more work. Its opening promise of a 
straight 12-bar blues is alluring, but never one to rest for long, the orchestra immediately 
gives way to a gulping and roaring improvisation by the trumpet section, sounding as 
though they are hauling themselves up by their own rusty pulleys. Then the orchestra 
returns for some more all-out freeplay before Paul Rogers' bass drags everyone back to 
the original opening statement of "ka-ta, ka-ta" and Edinburgh Castle drum rolls and we 
get a brief moment of collective swing before Tippett ironically - or possibly unironically 
- signs off with the old Count Basie flourish. 

The audience goes wild, even if I suspect that the Seventh Thread was a work still 
somewhat in progress in 1998; I wouldn't have minded a few more Brotherhood-ish 
shoutouts at the end. But Final Weaving is a tremendous listening experience, and the 
best illustration of the compelling power of Tippett' s music is the fact that so many of the 
members of Tapestry were also members of Centipede over a quarter of a century 
previously; there is an exceptional loyalty at work here which must prove heartwarming 
for the composer. Tippett' s remains a very singular but unbreakably collective 
compositional vision; I am not sure whether Final Weaving will alter my outlook on 
music so thoroughly as its predecessors did, but it is unmissable. As ever, Tippett' s 
sleevenote signs off with his lifelong motto: "May music never become just another way 
of making money" - and he does so with such a forgiving generosity that you know 
instinctively and instantly that it is Jools Holland's fault, not his, that Tapestry haven't 
appeared on Friday night BBC2. At least, not yet. 

(Review by Marcello Carlin: originally posted at 'The Church of Me' blog - 



Label: McCoy Tyner Music (Half Note 

Release Date: September 2007 
Tracklist: Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit; 
Mellow Minor; Sama Layuca; Passion 
Dance; Search for Peace; Blues on the 
Corner; For All We Know. 
Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor sax; 
McCoy Tyner: piano; Christian McBride: 
bass; Jeff 'Tain' Watts: drains. 
Additional Information: Recorded live 
at Yoshi's. Oakland. California. Dec. 30- 
3 1 st 2006 (broadcast on NPR's 'Toast of 
the Nation', New Year's Eve 2006). The 
first release on Tyner' s own record label. 

Tyner's style now is still recognisably his own, though it has undergone various 
subtle evolutions over the years - from the modal accompaniment which alternately 
rooted and energised John Coltrane's Classic Quartet, to the massive, percussive, 
African-influenced sound of his albums as a leader in the 1970s, to today's more 
gospelly, churchy tone. What's maintained throughout is that oiling, roiling, and cresting 
feel he creates from the piano, using it to provide great waves and bursts of sound. 

As you can see, it's easy to use natural metaphors to describe his way of playing, 
and I'm going to go for another now. What most people have come to expect, and love, in 
his playing, is what I call the 'thunder and lightning approach': tinkling, lightning-fast and 
scintillatingly melodic right hand runs up and down the higher register of the keyboard, 
commented on by with sequences of thunderous left hand chords, which alternately 
create tension and release, discord and resolution. 

On this latest album, though, there's a slight move away from that: instead, we get 
a much chunkier sound, with both hands often playing just chords, rather than the 
juxtaposition of these in the left hand with the linear approach in the right-hand. It's 
almost like Brubeck in his heyday in its thickness - though it doesn't really sound 
anything like Brubeck, of course. Another change is that Tyner skimps a bit on the almost 
Rachmaninov-like lyricism that usually pervades his solo piano playing, which is a shame, as no 
one else really dares to play with that floridity nowadays (it's all about sober, dignified restraint 
(Brad Mehldau) or spikiness (Ethan Iversen, Matthew Shipp, Lafayette Gilchrist)). 

The music as a whole is fairly patient in its development. Maybe Tyner's taking 
things a bit slower now: rather than rushing right in and sustaining peaks of intensity for 
minutes at a time, he builds to climaxes. He has been in ill-health recently, so that's 
perfectly understandable - compare how thin and drawn he looks on the title cover with 
the fairly rotund, jocular figure of around 10 years before - so it's understandable. Still, I 
did admit to feeling a slight pang at the slight diminishment of energy, although the 
climaxes, when they come, are exhilarating, and this more considered approach has its 
own rewards, teasing out the joy of the chord changes and tunes rather than using them as 
springboards for consistently high-energy improv. 


The group he's assembled is a strong one. Starting from the rhythm section, 
McBride, whose profile seems to have dipped slightly (though, of course, he's still the 
bassist of choice for many, and one of the best around), is typically strong. Jeff Tain 
Watts is not the most obvious choice to play with McCoy, but, while his drumming never 
deviates very much from providing straight rhythmic beats and patterns, he's perfectly 
capable of dropping some Elvin- Jones cymbal crashes at appropriate points to keep 
things nicely energetic. 

This was Joe Lovano's second date with an octogenarian pianist released in 2007 
(the other being 'Kids,' a duet album with Hank Jones), and he is on excellent form. 
Buoyed, no doubt, by the ecstatic New Years' crowd at Yoshi's, he's much more fiery 
than he has been in recent years, and this makes a nice contrast to his lovely, intimate 
rapport with Jones. Inevitably, there are traces of Coltrane, but his playing is alternately 
more tart and tender - half-way between the gruffness of Pharoah Sanders and the 
hardness of Michael Brecker. A gruff vocalised tone even comes in at times - he's tended 
to go more for elegance and precision recently - so it makes a nice change to hear him 
spin out some down and dirty phrasing on his smear-filled solo from 'Blues on the 
Corner.' Most of all, Lovano sounds like he's enjoying himself- one of the best-known 
players in today's jazz mainstream, he can afford to take a few risks, to let his hair done, 
and still sound completely self-assured and polished. 

The tunes are all familiar from Tyner's previous work: perhaps his most catchy 
composition, 'Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit', which advances over a rollicking bass line, the 
wonderful Latin-tinged groover 'Sama Lacuya' (perhaps the record's standout track), and 
three tracks from his 1968 Blue Note album 'The Real McCoy'. Nevertheless, it never 
feels like tired old ground, and some of the performances feel like re-interpretation rather 
than re-hashing. 'Blues on the Corner' is the prime example, stretched out from its brisk 
5 minute treatment as the closer on 'The Real McCoy' for a more luxurious 10 minute 
version which really emphasises the blues elements (especially during Christian 
McBride's solo). Overall, this is a fine, if not exceptional record, and will surely be 
enjoyed by a large proportion of Tyner's many fans. (Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Thirsty Ear 

Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Piano Vortex; Key Swing; The New Circumstance; Nooks and Corners; Sliding Through Space; 

Quivering with Speed; Slips Through the Fingers; To Vitalize. 

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Joe Morris: bass; Whit Dickey: drums 

Shipp was clearly one of the most important musicians of the 90s, both as a leader 
and as pianist in one of the great jazz groups, the David S. Ware Quartet, and he remains 
a man who produces challenging, thought-provoking, and above all intelligent music. 
Some may quibble at his experiments with electronics ('jazztronica'), pre-programmed 
beats, dubbing, hip-hop, and the like - and I don't think anything would claim them as 
completely successful, despite their moments of interest - but it is in the field of purely 
acoustic jazz music that his talent really lies, and he demonstrates that to the full here. 
The format helps- the piano trio (which seems to be coming into vogue again, what with 
EST, Tord Gustavsen, The Bad Plus, and all the rest of them selling albums at the top of 


the jazz charts) really allows his voice to shine through, without distractions, without 
unnecessary embellishments. 

This is not his first trio record: he's previously cut 'Circular Temple' with William 
Parker and Whit Dickey, and 'Multiplication Table' with Parker and Susie Ibarra, but this 
one is probably the most accessible of them (though that should not imply a lowering of 
standards, by any means). Joe Morris, equally adept on guitar, as demonstrated on the 
rather fine 'Rebus' with Ken Vandermark and Luther Gray, also out in 2007, is here 
feature on bass, and Whit Dickey once more takes drum-kit duties. The emphasis is on 
Shipp, as soloist and composer, but there's a pleasingly interactive, empathetic feel too - 
'locked-in' would be an appropriate well-worn cliche to use, though there's a feeling of 
looseness and freedom as well. 

There are elements of blues and swing on the record, as well as more romantic 
moments, but the structures and the interplay are definitely free jazz. For all the sense 
that the musicians are in control at all times, there's still a feel of openness and 
possibility, a preponderance of inventive quick-thinking and of surprising twists and turns 
taken by the various performances. The title track clearly defines this approach: yes there 
is clearly defined rhythm, the bass does walk, and the drums play a steady pattern, but 
Shipp manages to avoid a theme statement as such - no head-solos-head for him. Even if 
what he plays is melodic and mostly within the usual scales, this means there's no 
comforting point of reference: you have to make the effort to go out there with the 
pianist, as he adeptly creates slight patterns but leaves them somewhere in mid-air as 
soon as he's played them, in order to pursue new ideas. It's in such an approach that 
some of the most exciting contemporary jazz is being made: an awareness of tradition - 
sometimes an explicit acknowledgment of it - and an adventurousness that both comes 
from that tradition and transcends it, in a quest for new and fertile ground for musical 
exploration and experimentation. 

For all that, Shipp can be as bluesy as it gets: the second track, 'Keyswing' is the 
closest he's ever come to mainstream jazz, 'To Vitalize' is a non-traditional reading of 
what is in essence a boppish tune, and 'Slips Through The Fingers' is almost romantic, 
but, on the whole, as its title might indicate, 'Piano Vortex' foregrounds the exploratory 
approach. Standout tracks include 'Sliding Through Space', with its eerie arco bass work, 
and thundering, menacing chords in the piano, almost cinematic in nature, creating 
suspense and restrained tension. 'Quivering With Speed' then expands on this tension, 
with Morris and Dickey propulsing the music forward, pushing Shipp into what feels like 
unmapped territory. 

And that's the great thing about this music. It's accessible, in the sense that the trio 
uses known lyrical, melodic and rhythmic concepts to guide them along to some new 
places, but it never compromises. The accessibility makes the journey lighter, but no less 
interesting, and it's the fascinating journey that 'Piano Vortex' offers which really makes 
it stand out, even if no final destination has been found. After all, you could argue that 
such records as these which don't necessarily reach any obvious endpoint avoid 
complacency and keep both listeners and musicians on their toes. And that's something 
much needed at a time when jazz often risks sinking into apathy, into an indifferent 
rehashing of the old or a misguided attempt to seem 'relevant' by engaging with the new, 
at the expense of the elements which make this genre so great in the first place. All hail 


Shipp, Morris and Dickey, then, for sticking to their guns and producing this absorbing 
music. (Review by David Grundy) 

Label: whi-music Release Date: Sept 2007 
Tracklist: (DISC 1) Spark Trio - Tidal 
Wave; Berenson/Barnum/Marconi - Staring 
it Right in the Eyes; Wright/Bailley - 
Philadelphia 2/06; Marc Edwards & 
Slipstream Time Travel - Ion Storm; Dan 
Brunkhorst - Abraham; End Times Trio - 
Unexpected Explosions in a Midwest 
Suburb; Barry Chabala - Oswald 
Contemplates His Existence; Carey/Khoury 
- Untitled Improvisation/March 7, 2003. 
(DISC 2) Phil Hargreaves - The End of the 
Street; Lee Tusman/Voodooartist - 
Earsplode Dos; Massimo Magee - Dual 
Emission; Mittimus: Nothing is Really Free 
Now, is It?; Padma Sound System - Cubist 
Monastic Trio; Grass Hair Duo - 
GHD24Feb07-3; Glenn Weyant - Bite Me 
WalMart (Suite Excerpt); Fire and Flux - 
An Aphorism on Time. 

Personnel: (DISC ONE) (1) Ras Moshe - Tenor Sax; Matt Lavelle - Trumpet; Todd Capp - Drums; (2) 
Adam Berenson - Piano; Scott Barnum - Bass; Bill Marconi - Drums/Percussion; (3) Jack Wright - Saxes; 
Alban Bailley - Guitar; (4) James Duncan - Trumpet; Ras Moshe - Saxophone; Tor Snyder - Electric 
Guitar; Marc Edwards - Drums; (5) Dan Brunkhorst - Slide guitar, machines; (6) Frank Trompeter - 
Alto/Tenor/ Soprano Saxophone; Mark Schwartz - Guitar and Preparations; Richard Gilman-Opalsky - 
Drums and Percussion; (7) Barry Chabala - guitar; (8) Mike Carey - Bass Clarinet; Mike Khoury - Violin; 
(DISC TWO) (9) Phil Hargreaves - Found sounds, Cello, Soprano Sax and Voice; (10) Lee Tusman - 
circui-bent kid's toy guitar processed and recorded through Ableton Live; (11) Massimo Magee - Tenor 
Sax, Amplifier. Homemade instrument #1 and recorder; (12) Mike Yarrish - Upright Bass; Matt Sekel - 
Guitar; (13) Heidi Wilson Sax, Aryen Hart Vocals & Electronics. Yeshe Dorje Balophon & treatments; 
(14) Dan Pell - drums. Heath Watts - soprano sax; (15) Glenn Weyant - Kestrel 920 and Piano; (16) 
Benjamin Kates - Alto Sax; Richard Gilman-Opalsky - Drums and Percussion 
Additional Information: Both samplers are available as MP3 downloads at http://www.freejazz.whi- CD copies are available on request, and may be purchased from some of the artists at their 
concerts. Cover art by Glenn Weyant and Phil Hargreaves. is a discussion website (no prizes for guessing what's discussed 
there!) whose regular contributors include a number of musicians. In 2004, it was 
suggested that they ought to produce a sampler of their work, which duly came out on 
Phil Hargreave's whi-music label (turn back for a review of his album with Glenn 
Weyant, 'Friday Morning Everywhere'). Three years later, the second instalment came 
along: a double album this time, with longer tracks. Once more, files are made available 
as free MP3 downloads, or on physical CDs if requested. 

The provenance of this release raises interesting questions about the role of the 
internet, which also arose in 2007 with Maria Schneider's highly acclaimed 'Sky Blue', 
released through the artistshare website (where profits are plunged back into the 
production of more albums), or with musicians, such as Henry Grimes, who make self- 


produced work available on their websites, rather than going through record companies, 
and thus get to reap the rewards of their labours themselves. Phil Hargreaves had this to 
say about the first sampler, on "it's been a success, I would say, and the fact 
that it continues to be of interest is good as well: a CD would have faded into the back 
catalogue by now, but the web keeps it all alive." 

It's necessarily a varied collection, considering the contributors, brought together 
by the internet, and it suggests the possibilities of technology (as illustrated on the cover 
by the fusing of a computer motherboard with an aerial view of Angkor Wat in 
Cambodia). Indeed, as well as more traditional acoustic free jazz (mostly small groups - 
sax/drum duos, piano trios), much of the material on the sampler is more in line with 
contemporary experiments in electronic music. Whether it reflects the state of free jazz as 
such, as its title seems to suggest, is another matter. Of course, this is not necessarily a 
problem: despite the title of the website, not all the contributors produce music in that 
genre, even if it is within the scope of their interests. 

Several of the pieces are pretty much straight free jazz: the first piece, by the 
Spark Trio, starts off with tough-toned solo saxophone engaged in Brotzmanesque 
overblowing, before drums and a curiously quavery, almost parodic trumpet come in for 
some hard blowing, eventually ending up on a melodic phrase, stroking it a few times, 
and ending with a drum solo. There's nothing wrong with it as such, although I can't help 
feeling (as I've felt with some of Brotzmann's recent work) that there's only so far you 
can go with this stuff, and that it ends up repeating itself. It feels - dare I say it? - like it's 
reached a creative dead-end, banging its dissonant head against a wall with no way out: 
the fiercely burning flame that was being grasped in the early days of this music has 
dwindled somewhat to become more of a glow. Indeed, that reservation is something I 
also feel about the other free jazz tracks on the record: Grass Hair Duo, with its clear debt 
to Coltrane and Ali's Interstellar Space, or the closer, a very brief and furious piece from 
Fire and Flux. 

As Sonny Simmons frequently says, perhaps you need a dose of old-fashioned 
melody as well - after all, Ayler started off with simple, hummable heads before 
launching off into the stratosphere. I think the main problem, though, is that what was 
initially radical and exciting has now become familiar, just another style, like the jazz 
genres it initially reacted against. I found it hard to resist the idea that I'd heard all this 
before - albeit, under different names, on different albums, and from different times - 
that it was just treading over the same old ground. Free music was supposed to be about 
breaking new ground, breaking stultifying norms - yet maybe it's become its own 
stultifying norm. It should be noted that I am NOT trying to get at the artists - God 
knows they need exposure, and the music they make is not going to make them much 
money in today's consumerist world, where anything 'difficult' seems to be 
automatically discarded as 'rubbish.' But I have to be honest in expressing my thoughts, 
and I do feel somewhat uneasy. 

More interest was raised by the pieces which try to do something a little different, 
such as the second track, by a piano trio whose abstract and angular explorations recall 
some of Matthew Shipp's work, or the electronic atmospheres of Dan Brunkhorst's 
'Abraham', full of beats and bobs, with a melancholy accordion sound wheezing away, 
drifting in and out of the texture. Padma Sound System take this more measured, 
downbeat feel even further on their ambient, almost new-agey 'Cubist Monastic Trio.' 


Their piece nevertheless retains an edgy quality, which also characterises Lee Tusman's 
'Earsplode Dos', where a toy guitar is played through electronics, making many weird, 
computer-game noises. 

Free improvisation is another big influence on many of these players: Barry 
Chabala's guitar solo sounds like a more gentle Derek Bailey (always the point of 
reference for avant-garde guitar, though so individualistic he sounds like no-one else, 
even if his ghost echoes in all their playing ). But more obviously it has the sound of jazz 
electric guitar (Kenny Burrell, Tal Farlow), and is much more melodic, less deliberately 
broken-up and abstract. Unfortunately, as a result, it seems to be caught in a continuum 
between these two poles, unsure which way it wants to go, and thus it does meander a bit, 
after a promising beginning. 

A lot of the pieces make interesting use of electronic manipulation and 'found 
sounds': perhaps most notably, Phil Hargreaves' 'At the end of the street', which opens 
Disc 2. He's displayed an interest in the interaction between instrument and environment, 
'real world' sounds and 'otherworld' sax sonorities, in his album with Caroline Kraabel 
for Leo Records, 'Where we Were: Shadows of Liverpool' (2004), which was recorded 
over a number of year at various resonant locations around the city (in libraries, churches, 
and halls, under bridges), and edited into a kind of sound collage for the final release. I 
listened to this piece for the first time late at night, while drifting off to sleep, and the 
environmental sounds were truly eerie and effective, floating in from the edge of 
consciousness, becoming part of the musical texture in a convincing way. The track is 
marred by Hargreaves' vocals, which don't seem to follow any particular melody, and 
kind of drift along aimlessly and out-of-tune: deliberate I'm sure, but I'm not a great 
vocals fan anyway, and when they're delivered like this, it really puts me off. A shame, 
as the words themselves are interesting ("once I journey to the end of the street, I'll reach 
eternity" - a curious mixture of the mundane and the ephemeral), and the overdubbed 
bass/sax improv that follows (Hargreaves is equally capable on both instruments) is 

A recent collaborator of Hargreaves, Glenny Weyant, also contributes a piece. 
Like Australian improv violinist Jon Rose, he has gained some notoriety for playing 
fences, this time between Mexico and the US, in a statement that's political as much as 
musical. Here though, he sticks to piano, and to an instrument of his own invention, the 
kestrel 920. With these, he echoes the minimalism of Reich, through stark, repeated piano 
figures, and the minimalist-influenced ambience of Eno in the otherworldy sounds 
created by the kestrel. It's an engaging piece, which would be very at home on some film 
soundtrack, accompanying a journey into the desert, streaks of light remaining in the sky 
at dusk, progressively reaching epiphany, or perhaps darkness - there's a sense of 
reaching for a goal as things become more and more frantic, although it ends up merely 
fading out. 

As you've probably gathered, I haven't space to consider every contribution in 
detail, even in this fairly lengthy review, and so I should probably conclude with this 
request: download it, get a CD copy, listen to it for yourself. It's a fascinating collection 
of contemporary music, and well worth hearing. 
(Review by David Grundy) 



Label: Nur Nicht Nur 

Release Date: 2006 

Tracklist: Siamese; Labial Pops; Glottal Song; Multipel I; Multipel II; Trill Territory; Labial Plonks; 

Subsong; Nightcap Personnel: Ute Wassermann: voice 

Additional Information: This album is pretty hard to get hold of. so your best bet is to order it from the 

distributors, at http:/ . 

not for the fainthearted this. 

ute wasserman makes pure abstract vocal sounds. 

she don't dress it up much. 

you just gotta get in there with her. 

hold on tight and concentrate. 

ute wasserman; 

1 first came across about a year ago. 
I'd just been totally bowled over by 

this trumpeter birgit ulher live in newcastle 

and I wanted to buy some product. 

birgit recommended this cd with ute wasserman on it. 

she also features regularly with 

richard barrett and they have a duo album out. 

and she's a regular member of barret's fORCH ensemble 

who were on radio 3 just the other week. 

Saturday night oct 6 th 2007. 

if you missed it ask yourself what you were doing instead 

and then ask yourself how your life got so wrong 

that you weren't in front of your hifi with your heaphones on. 

ok what we got on this here album is 

9 tracks of unadulterated vocal free improvisation. 

well, strictly it's 5 tracks unadulterated. 

2 tracks where wasserman accompanies herself 
using electronic reverberation and then 

2 tracks which contain 2 vocal tracks laid on top each other. 

it is unhurried music, it isn't going anywhere, 
it's slow music, it sure as hell don't cook, 
and if you're in love with the idea of someone 
tearing forth with something emotionally meaningful 
this aint for you as far as I can relate to it. 

wasserman keeps it very simple, she makes a sound 

and she follows it up with more sound. 

she uses overtones, yodelling, multiphonics. 

sometimes she goes ping. 

it's mostly short phrases that stop and start 


one follows the other. 

she don't tend to use coughs or splutters 

or words, as I say it comes across as purely abstract. 

it's 9 tracks around 9minutes, 7 minutes, or 5 minutes.. 

one track as short as 2min25secs. 

although I don't think each track necessarily 

has its own life form, it's that european free improv 

thing of breaking up the total soundscape 

into bite size chunks and calling these chunks 

separate tracks. I think you could edit out the gaps 

between tracks and sink into it as one long soundscape. 

it's sparse, there's not loads going on at any given moment, 
it's best to sit back and relax and let her take you with her, 
play it loud and go inside the sound with the lady 

ok let's try and give you an idea of the sound. 

you'll get a shout with throaty hoarseness in it. 

the shout will elongate the length of a breath 

and she'll follow that sound through to its conclusion. 

maybe she'll warble it, or dip it down and down 

and she'll put a high whistling overtone on it. 

or she'll yodel it and split the sound. 

it has a Siberian slant to it overall if I can place it anywhere. 

there are no obvious jokes or native american indian colourings. 

most of her phrases seem to last the length of a long breath. 

she don't do a lot of staccato rhythm. 

she don't chase a beat, and take sharp breaths to do it. 

she follows her breath, you will hear voice thrown out and 

bent around the room, maybe she's playing, maybe it's playful 

but I don't know. 

it's cool, it's intelligent, get it. 
stay in with it on a Saturday night 
and improve your life. 
(Review by Anthony Whiteford) 


Label: ugEXPLODE records 

Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Ignition; Firestorm; Meditations on Violence; Continual 

Rage; Shock Troop; Self-immolation Blues; Refraction 

Personnel: Elliott Levin (tenor sax) Marco Eneidi, Marshall Allen (alto 

sax) Mario Rechters (alto and sopranino sax, zurna) Damon Smith 

(electric upright bass and acoustic bass) Lisle Smith (bass - 1,5) Marc 

Edwards (drums - 1,5) Weasel Walter (drains) 

Additional Information: Recorded live at three concerts in New York 


(Tonic & The Stone) and in Philadelphia (Danger House), during February 2007. Available for download at or through itunes. 

Weasel Walter, best known as the drummer and leader of long-running punk- 
jazz/no wave/ prog band The Flying Luttenbachers, here concentrates on full-blown free 
jazz with energy levels worthy of Brotzmann/Cecil Taylor: noisy, white-heat, and 
extremely intense. In the man's own words, the improvisations presented on the album 
"express highly articulated violence and fury." Recorded at three different gigs, three 
slightly different ensembles are featured, perhaps the most powerful of which appears on 
'Ignition' and 'Shocktroop': the rhythm section is doubled, with Marc Edwards (who's 
recorded a similarly explosive session with his band Slipstream Time Travel) joining 
Walter on drums, and Lisle Ellis joining Damon Smith on bass, while saxophonists 
Marco Eneidi and Elliott Levin demonstrate an ability to play for an extended period of 
time at the sort of boiling point that, if it features at all in more mainstream jazz, only 
features to articulate a climax; here, it is the main means of expression. As Smith puts it 
in a response to Derek Taylor's review for the online review centre Bagetellen, "we 
obviously go for a single-minded approach here on purpose. . . we know where we are 
going and go right there." 

The focus is exclusively on the energy, force and density of the group interplay - 
it makes no secret of the fact; indeed, it positively revels in it. You get exactly what you 
expect. To generalize, while free improvisation may be about discovery, about hearing 
unexpected sounds (so that, paradoxically, the unexpected becomes the expected), free 
jazz is a style with a clear sonic range and force. Nevertheless, it's not emotionally one- 
track, as claimed in what is probably the most frequent criticism made of it (apart from 
the fact that it supposedly offends people's ears and sensibilities) - it can be very 
complex, from joyful to despairing to moody and melancholic, often several at once - 
music of conflict, of conflicting emotions, colliding musical ideas as well as 
complementary ones. This idea of conflict is raised by the titles ('Continual Rage,' 
'Meditations on Violence', 'Shock Troop', 'Self-Immolation', and so on), something 
especially pertinent to these times, when the events in Iraq, and worldwide, trouble so 
many artists and citizens. As well as providing the possibility of a contemporary frame of 
reference, the idea that this is in some way Zeitgeist music (just as the 'New Thing' tied 
in with the civil rights struggle and the problems of American global expansion and 
imperialism in the 60s and 70s), such concerns tie in with comments that Walter has 
made elsewhere, suggesting that he regards his work as a cathartic experience of some 
sort: what he calls an attempt to find beauty in "the madness and horror of life." 

I know of one person who finds the sort of inner peace in free jazz (a highly 
troubled and disturbing form of music, if judged by conventional standards), that others 
might find in an ECM disc - perhaps this is what Walter means. It is certainly an 
expression of something very powerful to the musicians, that can also be powerful to the 
audience; in the right situation, and if they're in the right mood, it can be one of the most 
shearly visceral musical experiences known to man. 

Obviously it is an approach with its limitations, but this is true of all music: I 
don't think that any genre, any style can be all-encompassing, despite the desire of a 
visionary/madman like Alexander Scriabin, in his unfinished 'Mysterium' project, to 
create an artistic event which would somehow involve/express the whole of humanity, 


and conclude with the ending of the world. This sort of free jazz is no more limiting than 
fusion, or be-bop, or trad, jazz, or any other style you care to name. 

If you like this type of music, you probably don't need much convincing, and 
you'll undoubtedly love this record. And, despite the deliberate lack of diversity, there is 
much to enjoy for the less favourably disposed listener: Walter's high speed, thrash- 
influenced drumming, full of insistent staccato patterns and frantic bass drum work, more 
Dave Lombardo than Sunny Murray; Richters and Ellis' addition of some different 
textures by doubling on high-pitched and noisy electronics; the presence of legendary 84- 
year old altoist Marshall Allen - taking a break, if you want to put it that way, from 
leading the Sun Ra Arkestra, and still going absolutely full-pelt too. 

I'll leave the last word to Walter: "I haven't heard much good full-bore freaking 
out in the last few decades and my concept with this particular project is simply to push 
that aesthetic further, primarily for my own listening enjoyment. . I offer people a blast of 
energy with this CD and I hope people can enjoy it." 
(Review by David Grundy) 



A solo record from M-base musician Steve Coleman, this one was bound to be 
interesting. He's renowned for making 'head music' - he's into obscure rhythmic 
concepts, and with titles like 'Ascending Numeration Reformed' and 'Fecundation 
0701 18', he's once again not exactly presenting himself as the most accessible artist 
around. But despite the theoretical complexity that seems to underlie these compositions 
and improvisations for alto saxophone, they're remarkably easy to negotiate aurally: with 
his clear tone and supple melodic phrasing, they have a lovely liquid, flowing quality to 
them, and a real sense of concentration, of engagement (Coleman occasionally punctuates 
the sax lines with grunts that seem deliberately constructed as a part of the music (as 
opposed to the rather more superfluous mumblings of Keith Jarrett)). 


Pianist Gilchrist started late, at the age of 18, but he's certainly been a fast 
learner: self-taught, he joined David Murray's group in 2000, and now on to his second 
record as a leader (and first with a trio). Like Miles Davis with 'On the Corner', he's 
expressed a desire to move jazz back to the streets. "Everything I write is dance music," 
he's said in an interview. "You're supposed to move to it in some kind of way. Even if it's 
just nodding your head or patting your foot, the body is involved." Nevertheless, the 
muscular angularity of his playing and compositions perhaps owes as much to classical 
music as it does to modern urban black music; on the duet recording with Hamid Drake, 
he also shows his debt to free jazz, and to the high energy approach of Cecil Taylor, with 
a thunderous, dramatic performance that's full of dark, heavy left-hand work, matched all 
the way by Drake's earth tremors. 

Things are a bit more patient on '3': he doesn't clog things up too much, leaving a 
lot of space, concentrating on finding interesting, often dissonant chords and phrases, 
rather than simply playing for the sake of it. Like Jason Moran, he concentrates on spiky 


rhythmic complexity and is strongly influenced by hip-hop: both players have got a lot of 
praise in the jazz press (Gary Giddins is a fervent admirer of Moran), but I do tend to find 
their playing somewhat cold. This was admittedly not the case in Gilchrist's previous 
recorded appearances, as a sideman with David Murray (where he could whip up quite a 
storm), and in his own debut as a leader, where a larger band allowed for more colouristic 
and emotional variety. 

Ultimately, '3' is a formative record - he's still not quite a fully mature solo 
voice, but he's articulate, musically and in interviews, and his artistic aims are laudable: 
"I think the community needs to be disturbed at this point. The community needs to be 
disturbed by music. If it's instrument music, I think the sound of it, the tone of it, should 
have a certain urgency. And it should reflect the real world." Amen to that. Let's hope 
Gilchrist can build on the potential showed here and start to really express such a desire 
in his work. 


If only for one moment, this album should be noticed: something extraordinary, 
that I can honestly say I have never experienced before while listening to a piece of 
music. About 32 minutes into track 2, Gustaffson introduces some wind-like electronics 
behind Yoshimi's vocals, and it genuinely seemed to me as though a cool breeze was 
coming at me from the speakers, a simbiosis of senses I've never felt before. This was 
probably due to mental association - the sound of rain might have made me feel cold - but 
still, it was an intriguing sensation. 

The rest of the record is solid improvisation, for a difficult combination of 
instruments - the voice of Yoshimi, lead singer with experimental rock group The 
Boredoms, and the multi-instrumental antics of Gustaffson, one of the leading lights in 
the European free jazz/improv scene at the moment (his record with Peter Brotzmann and 
Paale Nilsson-Love, 'The Fat is Gone', is in this magazine's top ten list for 2007). A 
somewhat surprising pairing, it works pretty well: Gustaffson tones down his approach 
somewhat - the context necessitates a more subtle style of playing - but this remains very 
challenging music. An interesting listen. 


Pretty much standard issue sax/piano duet, I suppose, but that doesn't make it any 
less attractive: ruminative, melancholy, romantic, wistful, occasionally sprightly and 
upbeat. Jones and Lovano have collaborated before, on the quartet date 'Joyous 
Encounter', and it's nice to hear them continue the empathetic partnership they 
demonstrated their in a more stripped-down setting. 'Lazy Afternoon' in particular is 
given a gorgeous, unfussy reading that steers the line between dryness and over-egged 
emoting with consummate care. 


Marsalis' rejection of the musical aesthetic of the 60s New Thing also extends to a 
less radically militant political outlook; he's still angry about things, but he tends to 
express his feelings in a more debonair way. That said, this record comes on pretty 
strong, against a whole host of targets: though he's a Bush opponent, and has been 
particular strong in his criticism of the way the government handled Hurricane Katrina, 


he doesn't spare the left either. In fact, they probably get even shorter shift on this record. 

As the title illustrates, he seems to be getting at the idea that blacks can do it to 
themselves as much as being victims of whitey: he's depicted on the cover painting with 
a gold chain round his neck that merges the slave collar with contemporary 'bling' - a 
neat visual trick that perhaps captures a subtlety the music doesn't. 'Where Y'all At', on 
which he delivers a brief rap performance, makes some interesting points about the 
compromise, hypocrisy and failure of his, and previous generations, to bring about the 
social change they so loudly advocate: "All you '60s radicals and world-beaters, 
Righteous revolutionaries, Camus-readers, Liberal students, equal-rights pleaders: 
What's goin' on now that y'all are the leaders? " It's a point well made, but Marsalis 
comes unstuck in the criticism of hip-hop that also pervades the track. Firstly, it seems 
perverse to attack that genre using its mechanisms (like playing jazz fusion to show how 
bad jazz fusion is). Secondly, Marsalis' view of hip-hop is a simplistic one that ignores 
its valuable political engagement and social commitment. No one's pretending that there 
are not problems, serious problems, with the genre, especially in its modern mainstream 
form, but in dismissing the entire genre Marsalis is presenting a typically confused 
message. ' 

The fact remains, that, in the end, even if you ignore all the posturing polemical 
force of 'Where Y' All At', and other tracks (Marsalis is not the most subtle writer of 
song lyrics), the music itself ain't that great. The band is decent, though Marsalis is not 
really at his best (check out Live at the House of Tribes' for a better recent example of his 
undoubted skill as a mainstream jazz performer); the vocals of young singer Jennifer 
Sanon have been much-praised, and she's certainly a capable musician. An interesting 
point of comparison might be Leena Conquest on William Parker's 'Raining on the 
Moon.' In fact, that's the record it's probably most constructive to compare this with: 
both feature prominent vocals and address issues of social and political justice (Parker's 
more obliquely, perhaps). Yet whereas Parker's is characterized by a more controlled 
emotionalism (even if it skirts sentimentality at times), and is very much about the 
polished performance of a top-notch jazz band, Marsalis lets himself get overwhelmed by 
the somewhat incoherent message he's trying to get across. (When the man behind the 
million-dollar-earning Lincoln Centre, who's been involved in high-profile, glossy 
advertising campaigns for big companies, calls a track 'Super Capitalism', you maybe 
raise an eyebrow). And that's why 'Raining on the Moon' is in 2007's top 10 and 'From 
the Plantation. . . ' isn't. 


"I like my jazz with some dirt on it, sometimes a lot of dirt": so says bassist, and 
leader of this group Moppa Elliot. Don't expect this music to be reverent: it isn't, and it's 
a great deal of fun. The tunes and improvisations are playfully wide-ranging in their 
allusions: from bossas to bugaloos, rock to smooth Jazz, and swing to disco, often within 
the same composition. All the musicians bring a diverse range of stylistic influences and 
experience of different playing contexts to bear on such chaotically varied music: 
saxophonist Jon Irabagon was once a member of rock band Bright Eyes, but also displays 
an encylopedic knowledge of jazz saxophone masters; Kevin Shea, on drums, also has an 
association with experimental rock; while Moppa Elliott has played with 
singer/songwriters, chamber pop and jazz acts, and various circus bands. Also featured is 


the fine trumpeter Peter Evans, whose own Quartet album is on the records of the year 
list, and demonstrates a more serious approach to deconstructing jazz tradition. In a 
suitably flamboyant closer, a tune by another trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie's 'A Night in 
Tunisia,' is subjected to a twenty-one minute performance that Elliott describes in the 
liner notes as a "jazz orgy, [which] includes references to the majority of recorded sound 
of the last century." Indeed, these notes are just as fun and thought-provoking as the 
music itself, written under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym 'Leonardo Featherweight.' A 
nicely irreverent record, yet one that's full of serious musical intent underneath all the 


A second volume of duets from this master rhythm section, five years on from the 
first ('First Communion/ Piercing the Veil', recently re-issued in expanded form). The 
feeling is more meditative this time round, less rhythmically forceful (though they can 
really lock into a groove when they want to). Both play a wide variety of instruments: 
Drake on tabla, frame drum, and gongs, as well as his more usual drumkit, Parker on 
doson'ngoni, shakuhachi, dumbek, talking drum, water bowls, and bass. It tends to 
meander along somewhat inconsequentially - one never feels the musicians are stretching 
themselves overmuch, though they're so absolutely in command that the results are still 
extremely professional - and shares some of the same faults that Don Cherry's 'world 
music' suffered: rambling, lack of focus, a rather gimmicky use of ethnic 
instrumentation. Still, it will undoubtedly find fans. 


Gil Evans protegee Schneider funds and organises her recordings for the internet- 
only label ArtistShare: her 2004 recording Concert in the Garden, released through them, 
became the first disc to win a Grammy award with no in-store distribution. This latest 
disc is again available as a download from Artistshare, or as a nicely packaged physical 
CD (only website from her website, 

The Evans influence is obviously pretty strong, though Schneider displays an 
interest in more exotic textures (even if, paradoxically, here approach is a tad more 
populist and conventional than that of her mentor). Centre-piece, and longest track on the 
album is 'Cerulean Skies', a twenty-minute jazz tone-poem, commissioned for Peter 
Sellars' New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna. Donny McCaslin gets plenty of space to 
blow some powerful tenor sax improvisations, but the real interest lies in the unusual 
textures Schneider spins. This she does through incorporating some unusual elements into 
the band: Gary Versace on accordion, wordless vocals by Luciana Souza, and a sample of 
Cerulean warbler birdsong, used for decorative effect, a la Respighi's Pines of Rome. 
Elsewhere, some Latin flavours, and a heartfelt tribute to a friend who died of cancer are 
other highlights in an approach that's lyrical, colourful and expansive. Along with 
Charles Tolliver's wonderfully vibrant 'With Love', this is proof that big-band jazz does 
have a future in the twenty-first century. 


Fine free(ish) jazz with Morris, on guitar this time, playing alongside Chicago 
saxophonist Ken 'volcanic' Vandermark and drummer Luther Grey. On the fifth track, 


guitar and rums keep a roiling, tense motion beneath Vandermark's brawny, muscular 
solo, giving a real edge to what might otherwise be considered a somewhat unremarkable 
tenor improvisation. Indeed, one could say that Vandermark's playing obscures the focus 
somewhat - in sense, this is a track masquerading as something it is not: free jazz. Instead 
it is a track dedicated primarily to rhythm, and extremely edgy and subtle bass drums and 
guitar interaction. Not that Vandermark isn't equally capable of engaging with the 
rhythmic stuff: he's much more than just a free jazz blower, as he demonstrates here. It 
all adds up to a pretty good record. 


The farewell performance by this seminal jazz group, recorded at the 2006 Vision 
Festival in New York, this perhaps illustrates why it was a good idea for them to split up 
while they did: while still powerful and compelling music - muscular, soulful, utterly 
heartfelt - it doesn't have quite the same impact as their best work. I suspect that the 
group reached its peak with the 3-CD 'Live in the World' set, or the version of Rollins' 
'Freedom Suite', and it was probably a good idea for all concerned to develop their 
talents in different contexts. 

It's a fine album nonetheless: what Ware has learn most from Coltrane is that 
musical attainment can only come through spiritual struggle, and these pieces 
demonstrate a similarly hard-won arrival at a goal. Part three of the titular suite finds him 
playing consistently in the higher ranges of his sax, over the groundings of Shipp's piano, 
which perhaps prevents him from flying as high as he could - though their interaction is 
solid. Brown's drumming is ferocious and Parker hits the bass incredibly hard, slamming 
his way through to add to the impression of granite strength that the group generates. As 
well as the suite, the disc also features the rather wonderful 'Ganesh Sound', which 
definitely justifying repeated hearings. 


A hell of a lot better than fellow ECM bassist Miroslav Vitous' dire follow-up to 
his own 'Universal Syncopations', this finds Weber presenting a substantial (over 70- 
minute) collection of orchestral pieces, recorded live, with a wide range of collaborators, 
most notably saxophonist Jan Garbarek. I know someone who thinks JG's work is a lot 
better here than it has been on his own recent releases (such as the soporific - and thus 
appropriately titled - 'In Praise of Dreams'), although I always find it pretty hard to take 
more than a small dose of his playing. My own personal prejudices subsuming more 
balanced critical judgement, I'm sure. Still, there it is - Garbarek' s the main soloist 
(though Weber gets plenty of space of his own, with a three minute solo feature, 'Air', 
closing the disc). If you like the man's playing, chances are you'll be pleased. If, like me, 
you don't, it's probably still possible to swallow your prejudices and enjoy what is often 
rather fine music. 

The record is a bit of a mixed bag, and there are perhaps just as many hits as 
misses: the beatboxing combined with steel pan percussion on 'Hang Around' is an 
interesting idea, but doesn't really work, and things do tend to ramble. Still, at its best, 
the music has a feeling of sheer bounding optimism and hopeful lyricism that's really 
refreshing: the opener, 'Silent Feet', and ninth track, 'Yellow Fields', are probably the 
best examples on the disc. 



(For more on this album, see the Mike and Kate Westbrook interview feature 
earlier in the magazine). The Westbrook' s latest project finds them uniting the ghoulish 
fascination of the Victorian fairground with that of the internet in the titular suite. Kate's 
lyrics are off-kilter and surreal - who else could get away with mentioning David 
Beckham in a jazz piece? - and the music perfectly captures the idiom the words suggest, 
with a mixture of the brooding and sinister, and a slightly tongue-in-cheek sense of the 
absurd. In the second half, vintage American jazz meets the British brass band tradition: 
Mingus and Jelly Roll Morton rub shoulders with a masterful reading of Tadd Dameron' s 
'If You Could See Me Now' that's unfussy but genuinely affecting, and proves Kate 
Westbrook's credentials as a straight jazz singer. The rest of the band, local players from 
in and around the Westbrook's home-town of Dawlish in Devon, are also a pleasant 
surprise: alto player Stan Willis in particular is full of passion and drive. It may not be the 
most ambitious thing the Westbrooks have ever done (that may be their masterpiece, 
'London Bridge is Broken Down', soon due for re-issue), but it's thought-provoking, full 
of varied and intriguing atmospheres, textures, and emotions, and, above all, it's 
rollicking good entertainment. 


One of Zorn's classical music releases, this consists of 'Goetia', a work in eight fairly 
short movements for string trio, and two longer pieces, 'Shibboleth', where the trio is 
expanded to include percussion and clavichord, and 'Gris-Gris', for percussion. Pieces 
are based around familiar Zorn themes of black magic, and are alternately mysterious, 
spicily rhythmic, and bracingly dissonant. Music itself is relatively undistinguished - I've 
never really been convinced by Zorn's talents as a classical composer. The ideas are more 
interesting than the actual sounds they generate. This one's got rather a minority appeal, I 
have to say. 

(All 'In Brief reviews by David Grundy) 



Label: Clean Feed 

Release Date: 2007 (orig. 1995) 

Tracklist: All of you; Relentlessness; Out of the Cage; Something from the Past; Composition 168+147; 

Composition 136; Composition 173; Autumn in New York 

Personnel: Anthony Braxton: C-melody and alto sax, contrabass and B-flat clarinet; Joe Fonda: bass 

This album was originally released by Konnex, one of those unsung milestones 
that necessitate of a reissue in order for people outside the experts' circle to dip their toe 
in something that is described - often, and very superficially - as difficult, if not plain 
hostile. I'm referring to Anthony Braxton's music, one of the most important expressions 
of advanced composition and off-commonplace reed playing of the last century, which 
jazz purists classify as "too cerebral". I remember, a while back, a review of a Leo CD in 
which the poor writer misjudged Braxton's quarter-tone dexterity and unyoked 


improvisational acumen as "errors" in the interpretation of some standard, causing an 
amused email reaction by Leo Feigin himself who reportedly was "roaring with laughter" 
upon reading that nonsense. In these duets, in which the saxophonist plays C melody and 
alto sax, contrabass and B flat clarinets, bassist Joe Fonda - himself a stalwart of 
intelligent jazz - lends his dazzling technique, both with arco and bare fingers, the couple 
generating music that features everything at the right place in the right moment. The 
record is opened and closed by two homages to tradition, "All of you" and "Autumn in 
New York"; I dare you to find more atypical approximations and tasteful deviations from 
the classic rendition of such well-known pieces, all the while without lacking an ounce of 
respect for the originals. But, as told before, this could be a good entrance door for 
"Braxton beginners"; if one looks for more dramatic absences of compromise, 
"Composition 168+147" will do the job, Braxton's unpredictable flutters, superb 
dissonant lyricism and forward-looking open mindedness once again making the 
difference. Not between himself and other players, but among prepared and unprepared 

(Review by Massimo Ricci, originally published at 'Touching Extremes' - 
http ://spazioinwind. libero. it/extremes/touchinghome. htm ) 



Label: Impulse 

Release Date: March 2007 

Tracklist: I Want To Talk About You; My Favorite Things; 

Impressions; Introduction By Father Norman O'Connor; One Down, 

One Up; My Favorite Things. 

Personnel: John Coltrane: soprano and tenor saxophone; McCoy 

Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Roy Haynes: drums (1-3); Elvin 

Jones: drums (5,6). 

Additional Information: Tracks 1-3 recorded at the Newport Jazz 
Festival, Rhode Island, 7/7/1963 (previously released, in edited form, on 'Newport 63'). Tracks 4 and 5 
recorded at the Festival. 2/7/1965, and originally released on 'New Thing at Newport'. 

I don't know just how many versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My 
Favorite Things" John Coltrane recorded, but conservatively speaking it numbers in the 
dozens, the majority of them performed by the "classic quartet" of Coltrane on saxophone 
(soprano), McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, 
but several versions do feature different lineups, too. The song held a deep fascination for 
Coltrane; it was a measuring stick for his mastery of the soprano, for his bands' 
cohesiveness and communication; and for listeners, it provides insight into the 
development of the sound John William Coltrane heard in his head. It varies from the 
buoyant near-pop hit originally recorded and released on the album of the same name 
(Atlantic, 1960) to the brutal and coarse assault of 1967's The Olatunji Concert, recorded 
shortly before his death. In between, there are shorter versions, and marathon versions 
with lengthy bass solos. I probably have a dozen or more iterations in my collection, and 
it seems every time I buy another Coltrane release (which I do with alarming regularity), 
my wife jokingly asks, "Does he do 'My Favorite Things?'" It's an apt question, for what 
can be the appeal of hearing the same song over and over and over again by the same 
musician? The answer is that it is always and never the same. 

The dervish-like sound of that soprano horn is a constant, as is the obvious 


commitment, skill and passion of the musicians involved. But in almost every other 
respect, they are unique. The sound, the feel - there is always some detail which differs in 
the telling. The 1960 Atlantic is joyful and breathless; the nearly hour-long Japanese 
performance is grueling but rewarding; the above-mentioned Olatunji version is 
harrowing and raw; the Half Note recording sounds more exotic than most others. 
Interestingly, there are two versions on the latest live Coltrane CD release (and I 
sincerely hope they keep uncovering/repackaging/recombining this stuff), fittingly titled 
My Favorite Things: Coltrane Live at Newport. The CD is a compilation of Trane's 
performances at that revered Rhode Island festival in 1963 and '65 with his quartet. 
What's noteworthy is that the two performances feature slightly different lineups - the 
classic group in '65, but with veteran drummer Roy Haynes filling in for the, um, "ill" 
Elvin Jones in 1963. 

What the 1963 version makes plain is the exact nature and overall importance of 
Jones' contribution to the quartet's sound. There is no question that Coltrane' s horn is the 
lynchpin of the whole, this music machine which, even at it's most unrestrained and out, 
retains an elegiac sound - the sonic embodiment of the leader's spiritual quest. But Jones' 
high-hat, his momentum, the series of mini-crescendos he produces, are a sizeable 
contributor to that brimstone-scented religiosity. Without them, the band is a different 
entity altogether. 

The 1963 version with Haynes on drums is lighter, skippier, than most others. It 
has a snap generally not present with this group (and that is most certainly not a criticism, 
simply an observation), a hard-bop oomph as opposed to a church music bombast. 
Haynes leads the group down different paths, producing a sound which suggests this band 
might've had a career as a supremely professional club act, had they chosen to pursue 
that end. 

Jones is irreplaceable. Without him, the Classic Quartet would've been a different 
band. Haynes is himself a consummately skilled drummer, a true great, but what would A 
Love Supreme have sounded like with him and not Jones in the chair? The 1963 Newport 
performance is stunning and wondrous, and singular in the panoply of Coltrane' s 
performances of the song. But its greater importance is in removing one of the legendary 
group's key elements and, in doing so, confirming that element's significance to the 
band's astonishing body of work. 

I will forever be transfixed by John Coltrane' s renderings of "My Favorite 
Things," a warhorse of a standard that would prove the artist's longstanding obsession. It 
was his Leaves of Grass, the thing to which he returned again and again, tweaking, 
further exploring, revising, plumbing, editing. This latest available version has added a 
new dimension to my appreciation of the song, and of the band which performed it so 
many times. 

(Review by Andrew Forbes, originally posted at 'This is Our Music' blog - 
difference.html ) 



Label: Columbia/Legacy 
Release Date: October 2007 
Additional Information: 8 th and last in 
Columbia"s series of Miles Davis boxsets. 
Liner notes by Bob Belden, Tom Terrell and 
Paul Buckmaster. As well as tracks previously 
unreleased in full/ previously unissued, the set 
contains music also available on the separate 
albums 'On the Corner,' (*) 'Get Up With It,' 
(**) and 'Big Fun' (***) 


CD1: On The Corner [unedited master]; On The Corner [take 4]; One And One [unedited master]; Helen 

Butte/Mr. Freedom X [unedited master]; Jabali. 

CD2: Ife (***); Chieftain; Rated X (**); Turnaround [Agharta Prelude], Take 14; U-Turnaround [Agharta 

Prelude], Take 15. 

CD3: Billy Preston (**); The Hen [Untitled Original 730104 (take 1)]; Big Fun/Holly-wuud [take 2]; Big 

Fun/Holly-wuud [take 3]; Peace [Untitled Original 730726b (take 5)]; Mr. Foster [For Dave]. 

CD4: Calypso Frelimo (**); He Loved Him Madly (**). 

CD5: Maiysha (**); Mtume(**); Mtume [take 11]; Hip Skip [Untitled Original 741106a (take 2. part 1)]; 

What They Do [Untitled Original 741106b (take 14)]; Minnie [Latin (take 7)]. 

CD6: Red China Blues (**); On The Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin' Of One Thing And Doin' 

Another/Vote For Mies (*); Black Satin (*); One And One (*); Helen Butte/Mr. Freedom X (*); Big Fun; 


Collective Personnel: 

Miles Davis: trumpet, organ, electric piano; Bemiie Maupin: flute, bass clarinet; John Stubblefield: soprano 
sax; Sam Morrison: tenor sax; Dave Liebman, Carlos Garnett, Somiy Fortune: soprano and tenor sax, flute; 
Wally Chambers: harmonica; Wade Marcus: brass arr.; Billy Jackson: rhythm arr.; Harold 'Ivory' 
Williams, Herbie Hancock, Lomiie Listen Smith, Cedric Lawson: electric piano, organ, synthesizer; Chick 
Corea: synthesizer; Pete Cosey, Cornell Dupree, Dominique Gaumont, John McLaughlin, Reggie Lucas, 
David Creamer: electric guitar; Colin Walcott, Khalil Balakrishna: electric sitar; Paul Buckmaster: cello; 
Michael Henderson: electric bass; Jack DeJohnette. Al Foster, Jabali Billy Hart, Bernard Purdie: drums; 
Jabali Billy Hart. James 'Mtume' Foreman, Don Alias: congas, percussion, handclaps; Badal Roy: tabla. 

So, 2007 sees the final chapter in what's been an interesting project: Columbia's 
series of Miles Davis boxsets. It's telling that these have generated just as much, if not 
more interest, than most jazz released by contemporary artists - even beyond the grave, 
Miles casts a shadow over the music that's hard to escape from. 

I must admit that I was greatly looking forward to this one, my appetite having 
been whetted by a couple of bootlegs featuring some of these pieces from the On the 
Corner sessions, among a plethora of other mid-70s offcuts. I love the feel and the texture 
of the music, quite different to what came before and after it - much more influenced by 
what would now, I suppose, be called 'world music,' with its plethora of sitars, congas, 


bongos, kalimbas, cowbells, and so on - full of sinuous, twisting, evasive solos from 
some of the top players in the business. I love the audacity with which Miles constructs 
pieces from maybe just one simple riff, over which he lays down a magic carpet of 
rhythms and strange instrumental combinations and juxtapositions - distorted, 
Hendrixian guitars, strange synth whistles, seedy electric organs, cool and languorous 
flutes, burbling bass clarinets, wailing soprano saxes, biting wah-wahed trumpet. I love 
the complex emotional state he navigates: from mocking to triumphant to unutterably 
sad. There's a lot I love about it, as I love all of Miles' 70s outputs, for all its flaws. 

How to listen? How to experience this dauntingly large box-set? Perhaps the best 
way is to sit down, lie down, make yourself comfortable, for however much time you 
have - several hours, preferably - and just soak it all in. You can't really capture its 
essence in snippets heard here and there - it is a music of moments in some ways, but 
that's not how it feels when it's coming through your speakers. Instead, it seems to create 
a single, extended, almost trance-like moment, that may extend across whole tracks, or 
even whole CDs. It reveals itself in an unwinding, uncoiling way, fitting in with these 
pieces' origins as, essentially, studio jam sessions: you may be struck by occasional 
flashes of extreme beauty or invention, but the focus is far more on the overall feel of the 
piece, the groove, the atmosphere. Depending on your mood, this can seem beguilingly 
unusual, but it can also lead to an irritating lack of focus, and sections which meander or 

plod along, unsure of their direction. 
That accusations of 'selling-out' 
should still be considered a valid 
possibility, let alone mentioned, 
strikes me as absurd; granted, Miles' 
80s output may to some extent make 
concessions to the prevailing tastes of 
the day (synths, drum machines, 
square pop beats) at the expense of 
artistic integrity, but his late 60s and 
70s music is arguably the most 
challenging of his entire career. 
Perhaps the impression was enhanced 
by Miles himself, and by the 
marketing men at Columbia: he was 
big on rhetoric about connecting with 
the black youth of his time, who were tuned into James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly 
Stone, and the presence of Corky McCoy's garish yet quirky street culture caricatures on 
the front cover probably sent strait-laced jazz fans running for cover. Elegant it wasn't, 
and, for the most part, neither was the music - it was alternately tight and messy, full of 
controlled fury channeled into obsessive bass grooves and chattering percussion. 

When Miles did actively connect with the musical material of the popular artists 
of the time, the results were inevitably very different than the originals. This is what 
made his version of 'Human Nature' in the 80s so disappointing - he did very little with it, 
coming perilously close (in the studio version at least) to the sort of unadventurous, bland 
covers you'd expect from the likes of Kenny G. As far back as 'Filles de Killimnajoro', 
the bass-line from Hendrix's 'Wind Cries Mary' became an element in an impressionistic, 


keyboard-rich delicate landscape of 'Mademoiselle Mabry'. Here, it's Minnie Riperton's 
'Loving You,' getting a fairly straight treatment (prefiguring the 80s approach), but Miles 
turns it into a bittersweet lament, incredibly simple compared to Mabry, but with a throat- 
catching beauty about it that turns the 3 -minute instrumental pop song into something 
amazingly tender and superlatively, meltingly lovely. 

The reason for this appeal, and something which lies at the heart of all these 
tracks, is a deep sense of melancholy, sometimes rather bitter, sometimes sweetly 
mournful. It might be too simplistic to see it as merely a reflection of the times (the 
failure of 60s idealism, the ignominious end to America's involvement in Vietnam), but 
some sense of that has, I think, to come across: musicians are influenced by their contexts 
- Mies openly so. Yet one still needs to ensure that this is primarily enjoyed and digested 
as music, rather than history, as an aesthetic experience first and a cultural document 
second (if at all). 

Even on the up-tempo numbers, like the boisterous reggae rhythm of 'Hip-Skip' 
(on which guitarist Pete Cosey plays drums), the overall impression is one of a desperate 
seriousness, at least in Miles' solo. You can hear how this changed in his generally far 
more optimistic playing, a decade or so later, on the reggae track from the album 'Aura', 
where he plays bright, clean, open. Here it's much darker. 

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise how essentially bleak this 
music is, something far from most of the pop music of the time. Though 
unacknowledged, it may primarily be this that has been picked up on by today's 
underground scene. True, the 'IDM' of artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or 
Autechre plays to clubs full of people out for 'a good time,' and for an escape from 
contemporary societal realities, but at the same time, could it subconsciously remind 
them of the very things they flee from? Thus, though it apparently eschews a concern 
with politics, or religion, or anything of that gravity, it constitutes some sort of implicit 
cultural critique, or at least, a reflection of society's foibles. I'm not sure anybody's really 
picked up on this - the musicians themselves might deny it, and probably would - but I 
feel it's nevertheless an important part of Miles' legacy, and it's perhaps the reason why 
we keep listening, why we feel so compelled and fascinated by the music of a man 
journeying into a dark period in his life, even to the edge of madness. 

This box-set, then, is Miles' heart of darkness. Much of it is far from essential 
music (sprawling, meandering, cluttered, dense - all valid criticism), and yet, and 
yet. . .It's stuff that no one else attempted, and thus, even if not fully realised, it's a darn 
sight better than the work of others fully realizing their aims with more limiting and 
conventional spheres. Plus, if Miles couldn't fully realise it, who could? The music on 
this box-set is a gauntlet thrown down over 30 years ago which so far no one has dared to 
pick up in more than fleetingly. 

I could end the review there, but I don't feel I can, as I would seem to be 
encouraging you to splash a sizeable chunk of your hard-earned cash on this mega- 
expensive box. As with all the Columbia Miles boxes, it could have been trimmed a bit. 
For one, much of the music has nothing to do with On the Corner - disc 4 is just the two 
long pieces off 'Get Up with It,' recorded long after OTC had been released. Indeed, the 
whole of that album (2 discs worth) is included here, while 'Ife' is on Big Fun, and the 
alternate takes for OTC are barely different, so don't get much new music for your 
money. The comprehensive essays and recollections, previously unpublished photos, 


detailed recording information, and sumptuous packaging (albeit with the rather 
frustrating fact that the booklet has been glued into the spine), are a tempting prospect. 
But, rather than milking this cash cow, it might have been a better idea on Columbia's 
part to releases this as a 3 -disc set. Why didn't they? Well, 6 CDs sounds so much more 
impressive than three, and, after the massive Jack Johnson and Cellar Door boxes, maybe 
they felt they had to keep up the bulkiness to retain public interest, and to give an 
impression of comprehensiveness. The problem is that the unissued tracks are worth 
hearing - but I'm not convinced it's worth spending £50 or more to hear them, and to 
replicate lots of stuff which is probably already in your collection. Columbia won't thank 
me for saying this, but I'm going to end up advising you to treat this one with caution - 
wait till a second-hand copy turns up for £20 quid on Amazon, or download the tracks 
you need from itunes. 
(Review by David Grundy) 

BOOK (Rudy Van Gelder Remaster) 

Label: Prestige 

Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: A Lunar Tune; Cry Me Not; Grant's 

Stand; A Day to Mourn; Al's In; Stella by 

Starlight (Bonus Track) 

Personnel: Booker Ervin: tenor sax; Jaki Byard: 

piano; Richard Davis: bass; Alan Dawson: drums 

Additional Information: Recorded 3 ld 

December 1963; originally released 1964. 

Released amongst a batch of albums from the 1950's and 60' s that have been re- 
mastered by Rudy Van Gelder, Booker Ervin' s "The Freedom Book" ably demonstrates 
that there were those musicians outside the cauldron of the bands led by Coleman, Davis 
and Coltrane who also had their fingers on the pulse as to where the future of jazz might 
lay. It is hardly surprising that, amongst fans of this era of jazz, Booker Ervin' s "The 
Freedom Book" is still held in high esteem by many. 

Forty -four years later, this record can be seen as something of a crossroads 
between the Hard Bop favoured by labels like Blue Note and a newer generation 
fascinated by the prospect of opening the music up rhythmically, harmonically and even 
structurally. As the liner notes point out, today we might describe this as inside / outside 
playing - very much the calling card of an improviser worth his salt in 2007. Back in 
1963, this was pretty radical. 

Amazingly, although some of the musicians had worked with each other before 
this date, this record is the culmination of a session a mere five hours after they had first 
played together as a group. The result is freshness in the music and all four musicians 
contribute remarkably explorative solos. On the downside, other than the two sumptuous 


ballads (including "Cry me not" written by Randy Weston) and the bonus warm up track, 
the standard "Stella by starlight", the up-tempo themes are not particularly memorable. 
They seem to be merely jumping off points for some remarkably creative playing. 

The leader's big tone comes straight out of the Texas tradition of tenor players 
with a slightly chewy sound and a muscularity that adapts well to the more sombre 
material such as "Cry me not" and "A day to mourn." This latter composition is a 
dedication to J.F.K. who had been assassinated only a matter of weeks beforehand. The 
most impressive track is the blues "Grants Stand" that, despite being an almost 
throwaway motif, includes some fantastic playing by the pianist Jaki Byard whose 
scurrying runs evoke those that Cecil Taylor was making at that time on records such as 
"Conquistador." You can almost hear the bars breaking during his solo. Commencing 
with a series of dissonant chords, this excursion represents one of the highlights of this 
record. Elsewhere, Byard demonstrates his ability to play with the sensitivity of Bill 
Evans whereas on the opening section of "Al's In", you could be forgiven for thinking 
that you were listening to Duke Ellington. Under-pinning the group is bassist Richard 
Davis' who graced many classic forward-looking recording sessions during the 1960's 
with his propensity to eschew the more obvious notes associated with the harmony. His 
bass lines deserve close attention throughout this record. Together with the adventurous 
palette of Byard , the shifting tonal colours really pull against the lines played by Ervin 
on tracks like "Al's In" where Dawson's propulsive drumming combine with them to 
dissemble the notions of time, harmony and form. Dawson, who was the drum tutor at 
Berklee College at the time, is the surprise package on this session and his responsiveness 
to his colleagues makes you scratch your head as to why such a phenomenal musician 
should not be better known. 

Although there are other records that better serve as benchmarks in the emergence 
of Free Jazz during this period, Booker Ervin' s "The Freedom Book" does not deserve to 
be over looked and beautifully illustrates a time when some of the standard vocabulary of 
today's jazz musicians was being worked out afresh. Recommended. 
(Review by Ian Thumwood) 


Label: ESP 

Release Date: November 2007 
Tracklist: His Early Band/His ESP First 
Recording (interview); Cluster Quartet; Ballade 
II; Bloom in the Commune; Taking It out of the 
Ground; Interview- Recap of Session I & II 
(Bernard Stollman); How He Got Involved with 
ESP; The Music Scene; Music is Life; The Mind 
Set of That Time; Albert Ayler at Slug's Saloon. 
Personnel: Marion Brown: alto sax; Frank 
Smith: tenor sax (track 5); Burton Greene: piano, 
piano harp, percussion; Henry Grimes: bass; 
Dave Grant: drums (tracks 2 & 4) Tom Price: 
drums (tracks 3 & 5). 

Additional Information: Recorded December 
18* 1965; orig released 1965. 


Not the most well-known of musicians, pianist Burton Greene was active in the 
New York free jazz scene of the 1960s, in which he formed the Free Form Improvisation 
Ensemble with bassist Alan Silva, was a member of the Jazz Composers' Guild, and 
played with Albert Ayler, Sam Rivers, and singer Patty Watters. He was unusual in being 
a white man in what was primarily seen as a black man's music, though this caused no 
problems with his colleagues (apart from critic/author Leroi Jones/ Amiri Baraka); indeed, 
Archie Shepp called him "one of the best pianists around." However, by his own 
admission, he burned out, overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the music he'd been 
involved in creating, and the physical and mental strain it placed on the performers 
("there was a heavy mortality rate in that music, man," he's wryly observed). He moved 
to Holland at the end of the decade, where he changed direction: "I wanted to make a 
balm instead of a bomb" - which he did by playing Indian music under the guidance of 
his musical guru, sitarist Jamaluddin Bhartiya, and practising yoga under the guidance of 
his spiritual guru, Swamiji Satchidananda. More recently, he's been involved in re- 
workings of Jewish music with the band 'Klezmokum,' which were critically well- 
received, though rejected by John Zorn for his 'radical Jewish culture' series. Greene is 
still based in the Netherlands, living on a houseboat, perhaps making more money than he 
did in the 60s, but not getting that much more recognition (in fact, probably even less so), 
and not getting many more gigs. 

And so to November 2007, when his debut as a leader is re-isued by ESP records. 
As with another recent re-issue on the label (Sunny Murray's self-titled album), this 
features about 20 minutes worth of audio interviews with Greene and ESP disk boss 
Bernard Stollman. Originally released under the rather unassuming name 'The Burton 
Greene Quartet', it's been re-titled with the snappier, and rather neat title of one of the 
pieces played on the date: 'Bloom in the Commune.' The 'bloom', I suppose, would be 
'Ballad Number IF, although I guess it could also refer to the blooming of collective 
(communal) energy that characterises this sort of music - expanding outwards from 
melody and line to sound exploration. More likely, it's just a neat little hook that'll cause 
people to take notice of what would otherwise look like a pretty innocuous package 
("hmm, neat title, I might consider buying that"). 

Whether Greene will actually get any money from this reissue is doubtful (in an 
online interview he describes his shoddy treatment at the hands of Bernard Stollman and 
BYG/Actuel records in France over the years, a story which sadly rings true for many of 
the 'New Thing' artists.) Nevertheless, ESP have done a good job, and the interviews in 
particular are a nice touch - giving Greene a chance to reflect not only on this particular 
record date, but also the '60s in general and how free jazz was characteristic of that 
decade's spirit of upheaval. Traces of hippy mumbo-jumbo do creep into the 
conversation fairly frequently - it's hard to take him seriously when he starts talking 
about the "flower-garden universe" - but his comments about music made for profit as 
opposed to music made with artistic integrity, still resonate with the contemporary scene. 
He talks candidly about LSD, capitalist America, being an expatriot in Holland, John 
Coltrane, and, most intriguingly, the legendary Slug's Saloon show, where he performed 
with Albert Ayler, Rashied Ali, Henry Grimes, Marion Brown and Frank Smith. 
Apparently the performance was such a vociferous blow-out that the piano bench was 
bouncing three to four feet off of the stage! One drawback is that, despite the genuine 
interest in hearing such anecdotes and opinions, I can't help feeling that the additional 


material makes the original album into something of a museum piece, an artefact rather 
than a living document. That's just my take, anyway, and the music is obviously what's 
more important - so what's it like? 

Well, for a start, it features the wonderful altoist Marion Brown, perhaps still 
searching for a fully-formed individual voice at this stage (although he had already cut 
most famous moment on record, playing on Coltrane's 'Ascension'), and the great bassist 
Henry Grimes, whom Greene describes as the greatest pizzicato player in jazz. The other 
musicians are more obscure - both Frank Smith and Tom Price dropped out of the music, 
a fairly common story (the most famous examples being Guiseppi Logan and Grimes 
himself, who was presumed dead before his recent comeback). Still, they turn in decent 
performances, though it's hard to hear anything especially individual about their playing. 

The opening piece, 'Cluster Quartet', predictably sees Greene splashing clusters 
all over the piano register, and exhilarating it is too: clearly Cecil Taylor was a big 
influence, but perhaps more important is the legacy of maverick classical composers like 
Charles Ives and Henry Cowell (from whom Greene took the idea of playing inside the 
piano, a technique which he pioneered in the jazz field). 'Ballade II,' with Brown's 
sweet-sour alto, again contains echoes of twentieth-century classical music, with its mood 
of uncertain, melancholic fragility - half-way between a love song and a lament. The 
title track gives drummer Dave Grant a moment in the spotlight, followed by Brown's 
probing, keening solo, before the tempo and mood drop for Greene's mysterious 
ruminations, mixing more conventional playing with in-the-piano scrapings and 
strummings, and things conclude with a hell-for-leather full-band finish. 'Taking It out of 
the Ground' marks Frank Smith's only recorded appearance; the piece starts off quite 
quietly, but his solo soon takes it into the realms of 'energy- music' - his wailing, smeary 
tenor contrasts with Marion Brown's more sweetly considered, piercing abstractions, to 
exhilarating effect. 

In one of the interview tracks, Greene says, "I feel it's still very fresh," and 
whether it's timeless or not, as he claims (some would say it's very much of its time), it's 
definitely a compelling snapshot of an artist, a wider ethos and an attitude to making 
music. "We played atomic energy music twenty-four hours a day, man, and we exploded 
like the Fourth of July. " - Burton Greene 



Label: Bo' Weavil Records 
Release Date: May 2007 

Tracklist: Domiabra; Ole Negro; Mount Fuji; 
Queen Anne 

Personnel: Earl Cross: trumpet; Noah Howard: 
alto sax; Arthur Doyle: tenor sax; Leslie Waldron: 
piano; Sirone (Norris Jones): bass; Mohammed 
Ali: drums; Juma Sultan: congas. 
Additional Information: Initially released on 
Polydor in 1969 and then later reissued on a now 
out-of-print, Japan-only CD by the Freedom label. 

Do lost classics live up to their potential, or are they only considered classics 
because they're lost, because they're obscure? Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Han 
Bennink's 'Topography of the Lungs' was re-issued a couple of years ago. I personally 
found it utterly compelling, and it was one of the early recordings that I latched onto in a 
period when I was just starting to discover the joys of free jazz and improvisation, but 
some reviews I read were more lukewarm. It's probably right, then, to employ a little 
caution, not to get carried away: just because a record's been out of print for years, just 
because copies never sell for less than $50 on ebay, just because word-of-mouth has it 
that this is a killer album, doesn't mean that we should approach it any differently to 
something that's been available for years, or that's just come out. 

To be fair, this particular lost classic was more accessible than I may be 
conceding: what with the growth of internet 'sharity' blogs, where users post MP3s of out- 
of-print or rare albums, often ripped from the original LPs, it was possible to track down 
and listen to 'The Black Ark' without too much time or effort. Still, the fact that this has 
now appeared legitimately, and the artist can now finally start making some well-deserve 
money and enjoy the fruit of his labours, is surely cause for celebration. 

Noah Howard, for those who don't know, is an important figure in free jazz, his 
searing and soulful alto sound perhaps more 'restrained' than some, but all the more 
compelling and emotionally direct for it. He's joined on this date by monster tenor 
saxophonist Arthur Doyle, whose recording debut this was - and what a debut! He would 
go on to make the brilliant 'Alabama Feeling', drop out of the scene during the 80s (when 
he was landed in a French jail on a trumped-up rape charge), then re-emerge during the 
90s for some intense gigging and recording, and he's still around today. 

The other musicians are a little less well-known: as far as I know, this is the only 
recorded appearance by Leslie Waldron (prompting speculation in some quarters that he 
wasn't a real person, and that this was simply a nom-de-plum (in the same way that 
'George Lane' and 'Charlie Chan' were pseudonyms used by Eric Dolphy and Charlie 
Parker to avoid contractual disputes)). In terms of obscurity, I guess trumpeter Earl Cross 
is a bit like Norman Howard, who played on Ayler's 'Witches and Devils/Spirits', then 
converted to Islam, and disappeared from the jazz world (though his own 'Burn Baby 
Burn,' co-led with saxophonist Joe Phillips, has just been re-issued by ESP Disk). Cross 
was perhaps slightly more high-profile, leading one session of his own on the German 


Circle label, and taking sideman duties on three Charles Tyler albums (including the very 
fine 'Saga of the Outlaws' for Nessa). 

Bassist Sirone, though not exactly be a household name, got around a bit more 
than Cross and Waldron, most notably as a member of the Revolutionary Ensemble, with 
Leroy Jenkins and Jerome Cooper, and a sideman in the Cecil Taylor Unit that recorded 
'One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye.' Drummer Mohammed Ali (brother of 
Rashied, and, according to Sunny Murray, actually the better drummer of the two, though 
he has a far lower profile) was another one who appeared on several late 60s and 70s 
records, with the likes of Frank Wright, Bobby Few, Archie Shepp, Alan Shorter, and 
Albert Ayler, before dropping out of sight. Meanwhile, the percussionist Juma Sultan 
appeared subsequently on one Archie Shepp album, although he's perhaps best known 
for playing with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and appearing on some of the guitarists' 
posthumous albums. From what I can gather, he was also heavily involved in the 'Loft 
Jazz' scene of the 70s, and did a pretty comprehensive job in documenting a whole lot of 
exciting avant-garde jazz, both in audio and video form. More information can be found 
at: projects/ jumasarchive/index.php . 

Anyway, before everything gets too anorakey, let's get back to the music. The 
tracks often start with simple, catchy, hummable melodies, before taking them to 
passionate extremes, where the sound of Arthur Doyle's BURNING sax is a particular 
highlight, over thick chunks of Waldron' s piano, and sometimes in tandem with Cross' 
trumpet playing, which is endowed with the same grainy, throaty, aggressively forward 
feel found in the great free jazzers Alan Shorter, Don Ayler, Norman Howard, and Don 

There's a somewhat cosmopolitan feel: from the Latin/film noir-flavoured 'Ole 
Negro', with Few's jazzy solo, to the Orientalism of 'Mount Fuji', which has a melody that 
approaches tweeness, but is actually rather charming. In any case the focus is not really 
on the melody itself- it serves more as a springboard for some righteous blowing and 
sparkling, ferocious interplay. Also note the way that, as with Coltrane, the melody seems 
to have become transformed once returned to -struggle and exploration making the 
starting-point the more precious for having been 'attained' the hard way; or as TS Eliot 
put it, "We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/Will be to 
arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time." 

On 'Fuji', Cross constructs his solo out of yelps and growls, buzzing repeated 
fingers and tension-building long, held notes. Doyle goes straight for the jugular, like 
Pharoah Sanders, concentrating on sound and emotion rather than melodic line and 
careful construction: wailing and screaming, he's liable to stay in the extreme upper 
register of his horn for minutes at a time, unleashing barrages of stratospheric trills 
and supplications. Richard Williams had this to say about Doyle in his 1972 review of 
the album for Melody Maker, thus: "this man is dangerous - he never plays anything 
you could recognize, just furious blasts of rage. His solo on "Domiabra" couldn't be 
written down, or even sorted out. It sounds more like raw energy than anything I've 
ever heard. He's nasty, man." Another review, with reference to that same solo, puts 
it more dramatically: "he sounds as if he's trying to blow his whole body through the 

Through all of this, the pure, smooth directness of Howard's alto cuts through like 
a knife, and it is the moments when all three horns are going for it that are the most 


compelling on the album. Try resisting the sound of Doyle roaring, Cross blasting, 
Howard obsessively repeating melodic phrases or playing with yearning, lyrical fervour, 
undercut by Few's splashy piano, the insistent bass strum and hum, Ali's cymbal-work 
and Juma Sultan's congas, with the use of a spacey delay sound giving them a Sun-Ra 
vibe (though it's easy to lose the detail of their accompaniment in the general exaltation). 
No matter how good the bass solos are, and meaning no disrespect whatsoever to Sirone, 
they're inevitably going to feel like a bit of an energy sapper after all the sound and fury 
that's gone before, though I suppose they add useful breathing-spaces, points of repose. 

It might be helpful to note here that, while the record just drowns in passion, it's 
all the more effective for introducing variety in texture and mood, for mixing the bitter 
with the sweet and the rough with the smooth. As Howard notes in an interview, "if 
you've ever been in a black Baptist gospel church, and the choirs cut loose, you have this 
incredible harmony, and then you have the soloists, and the soloists go all the way out. 
And most of the preachers can sing too, and they'll go all the way out. But always within 
the context of gospel harmony." The balance between freedom and restriction, 
dissonance and harmony, noise and melody, is a difficult one to maintain, but the 
musicians manage it just about perfectly here. 

I personally have a soft spot for another Howard album, the (still out of print) 
'Space Dimension', which was cut a year later with a slightly smaller group, still 
including Doyle. It features some of the same tunes, but takes them even further out, and 
the contrast between Howard's smoother, more patient and lyrical approach and Doyle's 
straight-for-the-gut, throaty passion, is perhaps even more pronounced. The way they 
build from a simple, catchy groove to massive, noisy free jazz is a shining example of 
how powerful this stuff can be when done right, and has perhaps never been bettered. 

That's just my personal, perhaps quirky, preference, though, and 'The Black Ark' 
still kicks substantial ass. As one blogger comments, "I would like to feel the way these 
musicians must have felt during and after this set... ALL THE TIME." 


(Greene/Howard reviews by David Grundy) 


Bennie Maupin 
The Jewel In The Lotu 




Label: ECM 

Release Date: November 2007 
Tracklist: Ensenada; Mappo; Excursion; 
Past + Present = Future; Winds of Change; 
Song for Tracie Dixon Summers; Past is Past 
Personnel: Bennie Maupin: soprano sax. 
flute, voice, glockenspiel; Charles Sullivan: 
trumpet (tracks 2 & 3); Herbie Hancock: 
piano, electric, piano; Buster Williams : bass; 
Freddie Waits: drams, marimba; Billy Hart : 
drums; Bill Summer: percussion, water-filled 
garbage can. 

Additional Information: Originally released 
in 1974. 

Back in the early days, ECM were not afraid to experiment, releasing albums such 
as 'The Paris Concert', by free-jazz supergroup Circle, and Marion Brown's very avant- 
garde 'Afternoon of a Georgia Faun.' That seems to be less the case now - what with the 
endless Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, and Jan Garbarek releases, Manfred Eicher's label 
could be said to define some sort of moody, European mainstream (although, of course, 
one must not forget the presence of Evan Parker on their artist's roster, as well as, this 
year, the release of Roscoe Mitchell's ambitious 'Compositions 1, 2 & 3'). Still, it's hard 
not to feel that the 70s was a time, unlike now, when ECM truly meant 'Editions of 
Contemporary Music' - that the jazz it produced was contemporary in the sense that it 
was cutting-edge. 

'Contemporary' is maybe not an appropriate word with which to describe 
Maupin' s luminous, lovely album, however, for, though frequently experimental, and 
owing little to predecessors, it has that 'timeless' feel about it that is a true sign of great 
art. As well as being the first of its kind, it's also the last: it doesn't seem to have had any 
followers, as even the musicians themselves went off on different paths - Herbie 
Hancock continuing the march that would lead to disco and to superstardom, Maupin 
following his mentor into slightly jazzier funk on records like 'Slow Traffic to the Right'. 

Probably the most obvious musical connection, in terms of the actual sound of the 
album, would be Hancock's Mwandishi sextet, and his playing here echoes the feel of 
that band, as he adds spare acoustic piano and spacey, high-pitched, glistening keyboard 
touches. Of course, the year before 'Lotus' was released, he had progressed on to his 
slicker, less spacey Headhunters funk, and Maupin had taken the trip with him; his 
squalling soprano boosted the record's jazz content, while millions heard his tenor on 
'Chameleon.' But, for me, it was always the moody bass clarinet he provided for the 
album's closer 'Vein Melter' that really hit home, and, here, he extended that atmosphere 
even further into realms which were quite abstract, introspective, lyrical, sometimes quite 

It's easy to deal in abstractions, vague metaphors and similes, when writing about 
this music, for the sound itself encourages such an approach. As one reviewer says: 
"structures and silences, form and emptiness, pulses and flows: it is like sensing 
something in peripheral vision but when turning to focus, the impression disappears. 


Always interesting, often surprising, sometimes frustrating, the CD is out-there 
and yet in-here." This picks up on an important point: that, while 'Lotus' seemed like an 
avant-garde jazz record in some respects, overall it stood outside the free jazz and free 
improv camps, because of the emphasis on melody and the preponderance of sheer 
prettiness. You never feel, at any moment, as if this is a context in which Pharoah 
Sanders could start his multiphonic screaming - it's all much more low-key than that, and 
while dissonance is not excluded (most notably, Maupin's grave Tibetan temple vocals 
and anguished bass clarinet on the suitably-named 'Excursion'), this is not 'fire music' in 
any respect. At a time when ECM had not yet formulated its particular style, to the extent 
that it has today, this record could be seen to point the way to what was to come - yet it 
evades categories, evades genres, evades being easily pinned-down. 

Airy soprano melodies; loose, impressionistic, percussion; long, held flute tones; 
marimba vamps; two drummers swirling around in different stereo channels, never 
playing the same thing, but always countering and complementing each-other. A 
Downbeat magazine critic wrote that, "a more selfless album is hard to imagine" - 
though he could solo ably and strongly in the jazz idiom, Maupin's style was never really 
about virtuosity, never really about how quickly he could run through the changes. 
Instead, he concentrates on colour, on texture, and if this means that he merges into an 
ensemble whole, leading from the inside of the band rather than from the front, so be it. 

'Ensenada', the first track, is my highlight of the whole record. It opens, 
appropriately enough, with six seconds of silence, and, from there, it crawls, emerges, 
evolves - fluid, slippery sea-life before it's become solid animal, flesh and bone. Buster 
Williams sets up a gentle rolling motion on bass, which is picked up on by Freddie Waits 
on marimba and Maupin on glockenspiel, while Hancock concentrates on picking his 
way through the texture with carefully-placed repeated figures, sometimes just single 
notes, sometimes melodic or rhythmic phrases - though he's still recognisably himself, it 
is somehow unlike any of the playing from the rest of his career. The whole experience 
has what can only be described as a cinematic quality to it: that moment during a film 
when the narrative pauses and the protagonist moodily observes sunset becoming dusk 
out of a moving car traveling down a deserted highway. 

Most of the pieces follow a similar pattern: build-up, tranquil melody stated by 
Maupin on soprano or flute, perhaps a solo or some ensemble colouring, re-statement of 
melody, fade to nothingness. While the relentlessly chilled atmosphere could become 
enervating, the two tracks with trumpeter Charles Sullivan up the ante: the 
aforementioned 'Excursion', and 'Mappo', reminiscent of Pharoah Sanders' 'Astral 
Travelling' in the way the group first imply then finally state a theme - a novel way of 
treating melody, as if it was organically evolving out of ensemble interplay, rather than a 
pre-constructed jazz 'head'. (Incidentally, 'Mappo' is a Buddhist term referring to the 
current 10,000-year period, a degenerate age during which chaos will prevail and the 
people will be unable to attain enlightenment through the word of Sakyamuni Buddha. 
Hence, perhaps, the more troubled atmosphere). 

A blow-by-blow account of the record wouldn't do it justice - it's something you 
have to hear for yourself before you can fully grasp its intricacies and special wonders. I 
strongly urge you to seek out and explore 'The Jewel in the Lotus' for yourself. 

Incidentally, the reissue has dispensed with the original, slightly dodgy cover art 
(which showed a photo of the bearded, sunglassed Maupin, supermimposed onto the 


middle of a rather crude, collage-like drawing of a lotus)). Mind you, I'm not sure the 
alternative's avast improvement, substituting instead a rather grey, drab, 'moody' design 
(is it me, or do all the ECM covers virtually indistinguishable nowadays?). Judge for 
yourselves: here's the original cover: 

(Review by David Grundy) 


Label: Blue Note 

Tracklist: (DISC ONE) ATFW You; Sophisticated Lady; Fables of Faubus; Orange was the Colour of Her 

Dress, then Silk Blue; Take the 'A' Train. (DISC TWO) Meditations; So Long Eric; When Irish Eyes are 

Smiling; Jitterbug Waltz. 

Personnel: Johnny Coles: trumpet; Clifford Jordan: tenor sax; Eric Dolphy: reeds; Jala Byard: piano; 

Charles Mingus: bass, vocals; Dannie Richmond: drums. 

Following up from 2004' s excellent Monk/Trane album, Blue Note hit re-issue 
gold again with something from a more documented period that nevertheless retains 
considerable freshness. In this case what we hear is a very early performance by the 
Mingus group that played a well-known concert at New York's Town Hall before 
embarking on a major tour of Europe. 

Along with the reissue of 1965's 'Music Not Heard at Monterey. . . ', there is an 
embarrassment of riches from this extremely fertile period - what will make Cornell '64 
stand out mightily in the Mingus discography is, simply, the fact that the performance is 
so very good.. There is none of the workshop approach heard on 'Music Not Heard at 
Monterey', none of the berating his sidemen: just two hours of inspired, fantastically 
exciting creative jazz. 

The sextet was formed and played a two-month engagement at the Five Spot, and 
during this time Mingus composed several new pieces that would be heard widely on the 
group's Town Hall concert and the subsequent European tour. They never recorded a 
studio date, leaving behind only a few live recordings. The Cornell recording, an 
excellent performance that clocks in at over two hours, was lost history, unknown to 
discographers and historians until Sue Mingus recently unearthed the tape. One can only 
wonder whether any of the students in attendance that evening remembered this 
performance and its brilliance. 


It all opens with a solo by pianist Jaki Byard, his own composition entitled 
"ATFW You" (ATFW standing for Art Tatum/Fats Waller). It's a nice demonstration of 
his 'total pianism', an approach he shares with later musicians Don Pullen and Dave 
Burrell: the ability to move from style to style seemingly at will, but without seemingly 
wilfully over-eclectic. On this particular piece, he mixes florid technical flourishes and 
with 'outside stride': it points the way from the past history of jazz to its present and 
future, all of which were of supreme importance to Mingus. 

The bandleader himself solos next, performing a warm and lyrical version of 
Ellington's 'Sophisticated Lady' with only light chordal accompaniment from Byard. 
The real meat of the program begins with the last three tracks on Disc One and continues 
through the first two tracks of Disc Two. 'Fables of Faubus', Mingus' outspoken political 
rant inspired by the Little Rock school integration incident, is given a heavy workout, 
with a lot of room for the musicians to stretch out. Johnny Coles plays the first solo, 
firing long salvos of eight and sixteenth notes against the ever-more-agitated background 
until the rhythm section drops out and the trumpeter ushers in a sultry, bluesy line. Byard 
throws in everything but the kitchen sink, offering quotes from 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' 
and Chopin's 'Funeral March.' Following Mingus' bass solo, Dolphy takes it out with 
some deft bass clarinet work. Clocking in at twenty-nine plus minutes, it's a knockout 
performance of one of Mingus' best known works. 

'Orange Was the Colour of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk' is one of the new numbers 
Mingus had been working on. The group had worked this one out during their Five Spot 
run, and the performance here is perhaps the best of the live performances they recorded. 
The composition stands as one of Mingus' most beautiful, with its dusky blues motif. 
Mingus can be heard urging both Byard and Dolphy on during their solos, and it is 
magnificent to hear the great man so ebullient. The group ends Disc One with a rousing, 
rollicking version of 'Take the 'A' Train.' The arrangement shifts constantly, taking us 
on a train ride through the history of jazz, as Byard again treats us to a stride interlude 
followed by energetic solos from Dolphy, Mingus, and drummer Danny Richmond. As 
always, Richmond was right on target, giving Mingus' compositions the right amount of 
swing and kick at the right time. 

Disc Two opens with the half hour 'Meditations' (also known as 'Meditations on 
Integration'), demonstrating once more Mingus' passionate engagement with themes of 
injustice and racial inequality. 'So Long Eric,' another lengthy new composition, was a 
celebration of Dolphy' s tenure with the band. Dolphy had decided to remain in Europe 
following the group's tour there; sadly, only months later he would pass away, making 
this piece more of a funereal air than was intended at the time. The group lightens up at 
the end, performing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling' in honour of St. Patrick's Day (surely 
the only time , and closing with an energetic 'Jitterbug Waltz,' highlighting the influence 
of Fats Waller influence, and bringing things full circle, as we recall Byard' s opening 
stride-piano feature. 

'Cornell 1964' is a true gift to jazz lovers and Mingus fans. Had this recording 
been released many years ago, it would already have taken a deserved place as a crown 
jewel in Mingus' discography. Fortunately, its rediscovery allows all of us to enjoy a 
piece of jazz history that is as entertaining and fulfilling as it is historic. 
While the sound quality is not exemplary by any means and while similar material from 
this time has been available ('Town Hall Concert 1964', 'Mingus In Europe Vols 1 and 


2' and 'The Great Paris Concert') 'Cornell 1964' is still a major release. At over 130 
minutes and with extended versions of 'Fables of Faubus' and 'Meditations' clocking in 
at 30 minutes each, this is a full blooded exposure to the music of one of the key 
innovators in jazz. 


Keith Tippett 
Harry Miller 

Julie Tippetts 
Frank Perry 


Label: Oguii 

Release Date: June 2007 

Tracklist: Gentle One Says Hello; Fragment No. 

6; A Man Carrying A Drop Of Water On A Leaf 

Through A Thunderstorm; Communal Travel; 


Personnel: Julie Tippetts: voice, sopranino 

recorder, violin (Er-hu); Keith Tippett - piano, 

harmonium, recorder, voice, maracas; Harry 

Miller: bass; Frank Perry: percussion, voice, 

flute (Hsiao), organ (sheng) 

Additional Information: Recorded live at 

Nettlefold Hall, London SE27, August 6 th 1975, 

and originally released in 1976. Not be confused 

with the group "s second album, of the same 

name, released by RCA in 1973. 

I remember, looking at the original sleeve of the third album by Ovary Lodge 
back in 1976, thinking that London SE27 must be in the exotic depths of nowhere. You 
never saw live albums recorded in places called Nettlefold Hall in such a remote- 
sounding district as SE27. In conjunction with the earthily unearthly music which the 
sleeve housed I got the impression that this release emerged, dripping, from the depths of 

Well, life teaches you a lot of things; and I now find that Nettlefold Hall is 
situated in West Norwood, at the top of Norwood High Street in a building which also 
houses the local public library, and moreover is located about 10-15 minutes' walk from 
where I currently live. That knowledge hasn't rationalised the music in any sense; 
listening to it now, the latest instalment in Ogun's brave and, I am glad to say, 
increasingly frequent reissue programme, it still sounds like nothing else in music, either 
then or now, and moreover, Liz Walton's modestly controversial cover design, which, 
shall we say, interprets the group's name literally, still sticks out of the HMV record 
racks like a strangely smiling beacon. 

Ovary Lodge began life as a trio, fronted by pianist Keith Tippett, in which he 
could exercise his free improv inclinations and perhaps catch his breath after the epic 
adventure of Centipede. The other key member of this initial grouping was percussionist 
Frank Perry; and the term "percussionist" undersells him sorely, since he was, in both 
appearance and outlook, New Age a generation ahead; deeply spiritual with a tendency 
towards the liturgical, his "kit" famously took several hours to assemble and dissemble, 
featuring multiple "little instruments" as well as the more familiar drum set-up, 
eventually expanding to incorporate Tibetan bowls, rows of wine glasses, huge ritual 
gongs and authentic Buddhist temple bells. This tended to incline group improvisation 
towards the meditative, the sustained tones, an essence of contemplation. 


Whereas the group's first two albums, both recorded for RCA, carried the 
impression of free jazz plus New Age without the two quite uniting, their third - which, 
nearly needless to say, was eponymously titled - sees the group finally achieving a true 
fusion. By now Julie Tippetts had joined, and original bassist Roy Babbington had left to 
concentrate on Soft Machine and the BBC Radio Big Band, but not necessarily in that 
order; in came the ever-reliable Harry Miller. So we have a quartet which ostensibly 
consists of vocals, piano, bass and drums, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story. 

Influenced perhaps by the AACM, and wary of coming across as too virtuoso or 
"learned," Keith, Julie and Frank all made a point of doubling up on auxiliary 
instruments, not all of which they were intimately acquainted with (at least, not at that 
stage); so Chinese flutes, school recorders, various types of Oriental violins and sundry 
percussion and vocal chants all have a part to play in expanding the palate of the music. 

The opening "Gentle One Says Hello" sets out their template, and, once again, 
that of New Age at least a decade ahead of its guiltily opulent wallpaper status; here, 
however, there is a tangible sense of spiritual questing, with all four offering long 
extended drones, slowly intertwining, Keith issuing ominous low piano chordings, Julie 
switching from scampering sopranino recorder to sustained vocal lines, Frank's 
ceremonial percussion solemn as a salamander, Harry's stern bowed bass holding it all 
together; the vocal interaction between husband and wife (Keith and Julie) is very 
affecting indeed. 

But, when needs must, they can also roar. "Fragment No 6," opening with Miller 
in Mingusian mood, cheerfully double-stopping his lines and setting the tempo, explodes 
into violent freedom, but it's the ecstatic vibrancy of mutual discovery that powers the 
performance rather than anything destructive; Julie shrieks, yells, harrumphs and croons 
orgasmically against Keith's furiously criss-crossing, and sometimes colliding, piano 
lines, Miller and Perry pushing the intensity as far as it can travel, and then further; at the 
four-minute mark the band appears to COME but that soon settles, but the building up 
starts again and gradually everything fuses together in a gargantuan and glorious noise - 
Julie working up to a scream, Keith practically pummelling the keyboard with his bare 
fists, and just before eight minutes Perry starts lashing his Tibetan bells and gongs like 
the volcano of punctum and all four miraculously BLOW UP in one, long, sustained, 
staggering ORGASM which, if you know what I mean, and of course you do, goes 
beyond "music." The tide recedes, they retreat to a modal minor meditation, the track 
fades. No doubt the absence of this record from the public catalogue for nigh on three 
decades has given rise to the distorted fantasy that British free improvisation in the mid- 
seventies was going nowhere (as though the Incus releases of that time were not 
demonstrable enough proof to the contrary); newcomers will hear this and breathe 
bangles of radiant wonder. 

Side two (as the old vinyl edition had it; tracks 3-5 on the CD) begins with the 
nearest thing to a groove on the record, with the fantastic haikuesque title of "A Man 
Carrying A Drop Of Water On A Leaf In A Thunderstorm." Here Miller thrums out a 
solid bass riff as a crazed violin (I think played by Perry) starts off zigzagging in the 
Ornette tradition before settling on a droopy cyclical three-note loop in the venerable 
Tony Conrad/John Cale eternal theatre drone style which I am convinced subsequently 
cropped up on more than one "pop" or "rock" record, though I cannot currently recall 
which one(s), through which Keith and Julie provide very clearly defined recorder and 


vocal lines, Keith even resorting to shaking a pair of maracas and uttering Apache war 
whoops at the track's climax. 

"Communal Travel" at nearly eighteen minutes is the album's centrepiece, and 
here the group achieves its ambition of concealing ego in favour of a collective soul, 
everyone enmeshed so closely that eventually it is impossible to tell who is playing, 
blowing, hitting or singing what (apart from Miller, who with dogged glee sticks to bass 
and nothing but bass throughout the entire record). With its endlessly inventive 
intersections of flutes, voices, chirrups, high tones, low pulses, delicate harmonium and a 
plucked piano interior which could practically be a harp, it is a logical if unlikely blood 
sister to the Brotherhood's "Night Poem"; there is no central theme or riff diving in and 
out of the sonics here, but the atmospherics are beautifully handled and always on the 
edge of urgency - no surprise that Miller's bass is the key anchor in both pieces - so that 
when the thrashing climax does eventually arrive, it doesn't feel artificially reached but 
the most natural of conclusions; after that there is nothing left to say other than a minute- 
long "Coda," where Keith, Julie and Frank's voices harmonise, ascending higher and 
higher like nasturtiums towards a welcoming sun before they collectively squeal and 
ascend to the heaven of earthly revelations. Clearly, on the evidence of both this and the 
"new" Keith Tippett record ('First Weaving - Live at Le Mans') the spirit of '67 survives 
in surprising but utterly truthful ways. 

(Review by Marcello Carlin: originally posted at 'The Church of Me' blog - 

In Brief 

Reviews by David Grundy unless otherwise indicated 


Just a quick note about this one, which consists of already available material brought 
together for the first time - the original album, and alternate takes, plus the live version 
Brotzmann and co. performed the same year, released as 'Fuck de Boere'. Pretty essential 
stuff- a statement of protest, of collective chaos that finally descends into warped Lionel 
Hampton big band riffs, it's easily Brotz's best-known work - and probably still his best. 
If you haven't got it, then this box-set should be seized on straightaway. RHWARRRRR! 


Perhaps Cherry' most interesting period, between the famed collaborations with 
Ornette and the later world music phase, this finds him throwing out some heavy free 
jazz. Captured on tape by Danish radio in 1966 and now released on ESP Disk, this one 
features Cherry and Argentinian, flame-throwing tenor player Gato Barbieri in front of a 
European rhythm section, playing a flowing set of suite-like performances. This is music 
that skitters and nods, disassociates and coheres, twitches and lags, floats and swings. 
Snatches of melody appear (including everything from themes Cherry learned from 
Ornette Coleman to the Tijuana Brass's contemporaneous hit A Taste of Honey) over 
itchy rhythms, only to give way to other melodies and rubato space-outs. 

Cherry's self-described "cocktail" approach to performance is one that rock bands 
like the Grateful Dead would adopt in coming years, but in 1966 Cherry was all but alone 


on the cutting edge of this kind of seamless, morphing performance. Karl Berger's vibes 
lend the whole affair a mid-1960s, Our Man Flint, cool as ice, feel. Perhaps not quite as 
compelling as the records like Complete Communion that Cherry cut for Blue Note 
around this time, but worthwhile stuff all the same. 


At last, one of Hill's best records get the RVG treatment, and about time too. 
Perhaps the most avant-garde he ever got, it's rich and dark, moody and intricate, rising 
to great peaks of dissonant emotion and falling away into subdued musings. Like the best 
of Hill's music, it asks more than it answers: there's something unsettling and unresolved 
about both compositions and improvisations. Free jazz blog destination. . .out blog 
describes the title track thus: it contains "the most glorious four minutes of Andrew Hill's 
entire career." I personally have a soft spot for the album closer, the gorgeously dark and 
moody 'Premonition', but the whole thing's pretty special, really. John Gilmore takes 
rare sideman duties away from Sun Ra, and is perhaps the star of the album, on tenor and 
on bass clarinet. The much-maligned Freddie Hubbard once more proves adept in a free 
jazz context, bassists are Cecil McBee and Richard Davis, drum chair is occupied by Joe 
Chambers, Nadi Qamar pops up on various African percussion instruments, and Renaud 
Simmons provides extra rhythmic ballast on congas. Essential listening. 


If you can, try to get hold of this record (available on iTunes). It brings long-lost 
and/or long-forgotten music by Norman Howard, who used to be a trumpeter with Albert 
Ayler, recorded in '68 with Joe Phillips on sax, Walter Cliff on bass and Corney Millsap 
on percussion. And it's completely remastered on top of it. It's free jazz at its best, not far 
removed from its cradle, and the sheer raw power, the emotional expressiveness, the 
anything-goes-attitude are truly magnificent. But it's not a free-for-all blowing contest; 
the music is controlled without being too composed, opening up full of possibilities, 
expressing basic emotions such as anger, sorrow, joy too at moments, with a refreshing 
directness and musicality. The drums and bass are still strongly anchored in hard-bop, but 
the trumpet and sax screech, swirl and circle around each other at times without restraint, 
or in close unisono carrying the tune. At other times they both weep in sorrow in long 
melodic lines over Cliffs arco bass, as in "Sad Miss Holiday", one of the longest pieces 
and definitely one of the highlights of the album. The whole album is great without any 
weak points. It is coherent, visionary, powerful, emotional, expressive ... in a word: 
fantastic! We love ESP for digging this one up and releasing it again. Respect! (Review 
by StefGij sells) 


There's a revealing moment in the Steve Miller interview contained in this set's 
booklet, as he explains the reasons of a lengthy withdrawal due to a profound 
dissatisfaction with his technique. "I was hearing music that I couldn't play", says the late 
pianist. This tells everything about Miller's honesty, while also indicating what every 
artist should do when they feel that inspiration is not coming in the right way. Still, this 
double CD is another important item in Cuneiform's history of relevant retrievals of 
forgotten materials and deleted releases, as it puts back in availability two long out of 


print collaborative LPs recorded by saxophonist Lol Coxhill and Miller in the early 70s, 
which remained practically covered with the sand of oblivion until now. As it often 
happens with reissues of obscure records, no master tapes were available; the copy on CD 
derives from a vinyl-to-disc transfer with various kinds of digital cleaning. Assuming 
that, since you're reading this website, you know who Lol Coxhill and Steve Miller are 
(. . .and if that's not the case, I can't certainly narrate their careers in pills in the space of a 
review - surf the web!), the material comprised here owns that fascinating aura, halfway 
between nostalgia and youthful enthusiasm, characterizing most of the Canterbury-related 
expressions of that era. Besides the ingenuous purity of the duo improvisations, one can 
already catch glimpses of Coxhill' s future developments as a solo performer, Miller 
complementing his "absolutely free" explorations with phraseologies whose structure is 
evident - those technical habits that he came to hate, indeed. For collectors and avid fans, 
there are good portions of previously unreleased goodies, including live recordings (in 
glorious mono) and 20 minutes from the "proto-Hatfield and the North lineup of 
Delivery" (Miller and Coxhill plus Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair and Roy 
Babbington). Those who are into this stuff will enjoy this one a lot, treating the lo-fi 
quality and the frequent naivete as archival manna. (Review by Massimo Ricci) 


A fairly typical ESP blowing session, this one's interest lies in the bonus 
interview material with a charming and loquacious Murray. Recorded in 1966, the music 
itself features a two-sax frontline: Byard Lancaster and the little-known Jack Graham are 
the men screaming away, alongside the excellent Jacques Coursil on trumpet, and bassist 
Alan Silva. Murray, as you'd expect, keeps things very loose, and things are darker and 
more abstract than the Ayler group: the folky themes are gone in favour of darker 
territory (despite the fact that one of the track is called 'Hilariously', it sounds far from 
hilarious - and it's soon joined by another piece called 'Giblet'). Still, it's not the most 
essential of the recent batch of ESP re-issues; go for the Burton Greene or Norman 
Howard first. 


Hook, Drift & Shuffle is a 1983 performance originally released on the 
Parker/Derek Bailey Incus label, recorded at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels in the 
concert series directed by Godried-Willem Raes. Everyone except Parker uses some kind 
of electronics: in addition to trombone George Lewis played a number of accessory and 
modifying devices, most of which were amplified; Barry Guy used amplification and 
electronics to process the sound of the bass; Paul Lytton used cymbals, gongs, 
woodblocks and amplified percussion. 

The improvisations provide an early example of the timbres now associated with 
Parker's Electroacoustic Ensemble. Huge washes of semi-static transparent sound 
permeate, while transient peaks also abound; the opening moments of 'Shuffle' find a 
descending honk from Parker resonating with the electronics employed by Lytton and 
trombonist George Lewis, making his tenor sound bigger than life. As with the 
Electroacoustic Ensemble, there is the constant illusion of more musicians than are 
actually present, especially on the 34-minute 'Drift', a huge mass of intersecting plains of 


drone with blurred edges. Even the pointillisms throughout, including rather astonishing 
chipmunk vocalizations, are subservient to drones, long shrill squeals and protruding 
growls of epic proportions that swell and subside. 

The first five minutes of 'Shuffle' see the use of a what sounds like a Tibetan 
prayer bell, coupled with liberal use of space and very quiet, noise-focussed music 
(AMM-style), before Parker launches into his circular breathing soprano sax moto 
perpetuo routine, which some are becoming a little tired of now. Impressive though it 
undoubtedly is, he's essentially been pulling the same trick for years (in a way that 
perhaps goes against the constantly inventive nature of free improv, one could argue - he 
doesn't seem to want to use the soprano in the same varied way he does the tenor, which 
is a real shame, as it could so very easily be more than a one-trick instrument). Here, 
though, variety is added by Lewis' electronics, punctuating underneath, and contrasting 
with the business of the constantly flowing sax line (which nevertheless achieves a 
curious kind of stasis, and, in its interaction (or non-interaction) with the other 
instruments, a real state of tension. Compelling stuff. 


This one's novelty value only: OK, well, I have to admit that I'm not a really a 
convert into the 'Church of Ra'. I know that he's been compared to Ellington, and that his 
music is both immensely forward-looking and 'futuristic', and full of the traces of jazz 
history, from stride piano to swing to African rhythms and percussion. But I still find it 
hard to get past the 'eccentric' tag, and the fact that, to put it frankly, some of his music is 
just deeply annoying (the title track of 'Space is the Place', with its endlessly repeated 
refrain and Ra's synthesizer-siren blaring away over muddy squawking saxophones and 
screeching vocalists, does little to rock to my boat). This is admittedly a different 
proposition to the Arkestra, however: mainly solo, it showcase Ra's keyboard skills, and 
his uniquely chunky, melodic sound. On here he gets to play the Roksichord - something 
like an electric piano, with a vague resemblance to a Harpsichord in its sound. Basically, 
what this boils down to is that we have some fairly traditional tracks played on a rather 
tinny- sounding keyboard. John Gilmore and Danny Davis also appear - the tracks with 
alto clarinet provide some welcome textural variety, and one of them, Ra's lovely 
composition 'Love in Outer Space', is perhaps the highlight of the record (though it's 
been performed better elsewhere). On a couple of pieces, including that one, Ra 
supplements the Roksichord with a Moog synth, to fill things out a bit, and the re-issue 
also includes some home recordings on Wurlitzer electric piano. It's all a bit tinny and 
plink-plonk for my tastes, but you may get a kick out of it, if you're in the right mood. 


Free improvisation recorded in New York circa 1966 and 1967. Apparently Sun 
Ra's only directions to his Arkestra were when to start playing and when to stop; as such, 
it represents an even more un-tethered approach than Coltrane's 'Ascension'. It's more 
on the side of weird, mystifying Sun Ra head-trip than free jazz blowout, though: 'lost in 
Space' best describes this music, thanks to close proximity of a microphone that 
amplifies horns and strings through reverb and distortion. The second track sees the use 
of a piece of sheet metal and some wordless, gargling vocals, the third a ukelin (a kind of 
bowed and strummed zither from the early 1990s), as well as a couple of other stringed 


instruments: the dutar and bandura. Things reach the height of craziness in the final track, 
where Sun Ra 'plays' a squeaking door (with Mini-Moog) as accompaniment to strings 
and percussion. Gives new meaning to what the liner notes call "musical uncanny". 
Completely mad, but oddly compelling. Hard to evaluate its significance: perhaps it's the 
most innovative and important piece of improvisation ever recorded, perhaps the most 
ridiculous, perhaps both! 

TRIO OF DOOM (John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams) - TRIO OF 

Heaven knows why McLaughlin's finally given in and allowed these to come out, 
after stubbornly resisting for years. On paper, it sounded great - the ultimate fusion 
guitarist, bassist and drummer together as a power trio - but they just didn't seem to hit it 
off (Pastorius' drug habit was probably the main reason). After a calamitous live set at a 
gig in Cuba, they tried to re-record the material in a studio, but that attempt proved 
equally abortive, and the Trio of Doom died almost as soon as it was born - quite a well- 
chosen name, when you come to think about it! 

On this album, we get the original live performance from the ill-fated Cuba gig, 
and the versions recorded at the equally ill-fated studio session, which ended with Tony 
Williams forcing Pastorius up against a wall and destroying a drum-kit on his way out of 
the studio. These were in fact the tracks released by Columbia at the time, on an obscure 
compilation called 'Havana Jam' (with audience applause added to make it seem as 
though they had been recorded live). The performances aren't too bad, but given false 
starts and so on, it only really amounts to about half an hour of actual music. What there 
isn't very interesting, especially when you consider what these musicians were capable of 
on their day. One for completists, and the curious, only. 



Royal Festival Hall, London (July 2007) 

Royal Festival Hall, London (July 2007) 

• EVAN PARKER/TOM JENKINSON (a.k.a. Squarepusher) 
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (July 2007) 

Red Rose, Finsbury Park, London (October 2007) 


UK Tour, September 2007 (Red Rose; Liverpool) 


The Anvil, Basingstoke (November 2007) 

The Portland Arms, Cambridge (November 2007) 


HALL, 8/07/2007. Review by David Grundy. 

"Given Taylor 's holy role as the eternal outer 
curve of the avant-garde, it isn 't his function to 
make things easy. When we can listen to him with 
half an ear, he 's lost. " 
Gary Giddins 

Sunday 8 th July, 2007. On a day that Roger 
Federer was taken to five sets by Rafael 
Nadal in the final of the Wimbledon tennis 
championship, eventually winning through to 
equal Bjorn Borg's record of five successive 
Wimbledon titles, musical history was also 
being made. For the first time ever, two 
giants of improvised music, pianist Cecil 
Taylor and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, 
were playing together for the first time, in a 
quartet with bassist William Parker and 
percussionist Tony Oxley, at the newly 
refurbished Royal Festival Hall. Like Al 
Pacino and Robert de Niro, two doyens of the 
crime film genre who appeared in similar 
films and appealed to a similar audience, their 
meeting, when it came, took on the air of a 
momentous occasion even before it 
happened. And, like Pacino and De Niro's shared screen time in Michael Mann's epic 
drama 'Heat', it turned out to be well worth the wait. 

The Royal Festival Hall might seem like an odd location, and, indeed, I've read 
comments along the lines that it would have been better to give the group a week-long 
residency in a small club, rather than a one-off gig in a prestigious concert hall. Yet 
Taylor's leading collaborator Jimmy Lyons commented thirty years ago, "I think the 
music is to a point now where the nightclub can't handle it. . .It has to be pushed 
culturally as it is an advanced music; I don't think it can be appreciated right in" (quoted 
in Valerie Wilmer's 'As Serious As Your Life'). Perhaps the concert hall is actually 
Taylor's natural home, a sign that he has gained the prestige his music deserves - 
certainly, just as with Ornette Coleman, who performed at the RFH the next evening, it 
was a long way from his beginnings, where his music was constantly misunderstood, 
where other musicians would refuse to play with him, and where critical reaction was 
frequently hostile in the extreme. After all, wherever Taylor plays, he remains resolutely 
himself, making no concessions to popular taste or critical demand: he plays what he 
feels, and now he has the status to offer him some security, he has even more freedom to 
pursue his own unique path. 

Aside from the choice of venue, questions remained about the music itself. How 
would Taylor's extrovert, flamboyant, no-holds-barred virtuosity sit with Braxton's more 
acerbic voicings? Would they attempt to find some sort of meeting ground, or would each 


man go his own way, leaving an unresolved tension that, while superficially exciting, 
would also be extremely frustrating for both musicians and audience? 

As it happened, these questions would not be answered until the second set. I sat 
down in my £35 seat (the combination of high tickets prices and travel costs meant that 
this was an expensive evening), and I have to admit that my heart sank when Polar Bear 
were announced as the opening act - 1 was expecting a marathon Cecil session! A quintet 
led by big-haired drummer Seb Rochford, with bassist Tom Herbert, tenor saxophonists 
Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart, and electronics man Leafcutter John, their CD ('Held 
on the tips of fingers') is tolerable, but a bit too smart and vacuous for its own good. I did 
enjoy some of the stuff they were doing (Leafcutter John's 'solo' with squeaky balloons 
and some of the double- sax soloing 'freakouts'), but there are two fundamental problems 
with their music: (1) too often it veers towards empty, slick, groove-based material (tight, 
arranged, soulless) - though admittedly there is a strain of melancholy introspection 
which is quite attractive, if left somewhat underdeveloped (it was most present in the first 
two pieces they played). The line-up is interesting (two saxes, bass, drums, electronics - 
no chordal instrument), and the use of electronics could have made a difference, but in 
the end not that much was done with them, as regards texture - they tended to be used as 
either 'weird' noises or for repeating loops/grooves behind some of the more 'far out' 

Which leads me to point (2) - though I found myself caught up in some of the 
'skronk' solos by Pete Wareham in particular (echoes, however brief, of techniques used 
by Evan Parker and John Butcher, flitted through his playing), in the end (this was 
something brought into sharper focus by seeing Cecil afterwards), these avant-garde 
elements were being used in a fairly empty way - not as a logical, coherent, complete 
means of expression, a vocabulary with validity in its own right as emotionally fulfilling 
music, but as a device to seem 'far out' and a bit edgy. As if worrying that an audience 
might not approve of 'random loud noises' - that they might leave the building or 
something - there was always some sort of steady, repetitious pulse behind the 'out' 
sections (either bass, drums, or electronics). Strange considering that most had come to 
see two of the most challenging avant-garde musicians of the past fifty years... 

And so onto Cecil. ..I'd been scribbling down notes (impressions, criticisms, etc) 
in the first half, and continued to in the second, albeit more haphazardly and frenziedly, 
as Cecil's music is so flexible, metamorphoses from one thing to another with such 
quicksilver speed, that you have to work fast to capture something you particularly liked! 
From those, and from what I remember, as well as some views from hindsight, here is 
what you might call a 'review'... 

The performance can be divided into three main sections. Firstly, a duet between 
Tony Oxl ey and Taylor, consisting of two pieces (possibly with a composed piano part 
and improvised accompaniment on drums). Secondly, a bass solo from William Parker. 
Thirdly, the entire group took the stage. This dividing up of resources ensures both a 
variety of texture and a chance for all the musicians to showcase their abilities (if being a 
trifle pernickety I could say that Parker needed his solo feature, as you could barely hear 
him in the quartet music!). 


There was an element of ritual from the start (though it wasn't that apparent late 
on): a poem reading by Taylor over loudspeakers (whether spoken offstage or pre- 
recorded was unclear) accompanied Tony Oxley as he wandered over to the drum set, his 
white hair glowing in the dim lighting, and sat down. It was like some sort of avant-garde 
play - this performative aspect is very important in a lot of the free music of the 60s and 
70s (think Archie Shepp with his late 60s 'marching band' phase and pieces like 'Mama 
Rose', or Coltrane's callisthenics, or the Art Ensemble of Chicago, most notably), and 
also in Taylor's music. This connects to the African roots he emphasised, as well as to an 
almost surreal imagination, even mischievousness. Though humour is not the first thing 
people tend to mention when he plays, I think there is a kind of child-like joy in the sheer 
uninhibited nature of his work at times - particularly the record he did with the Italian 
Instabile Orchestra (The Owner of the Riverbank'), of which there is a wonderful video 
clip onyoutube ( Anyway, Taylor 
duly capered onstage, shaking some handbells, like a shaman, or an elf... and sat down at 
the piano, and began to play. 

The Taylor and Oxley duo left me somewhat unsatisfied. Taylor appeared to be 
playing composed music (he had a number of sheets of paper on the piano, presumably a 
score, and, when the first piece finished, he shuffled them around and pulled out another 
piece) - even if he wasn't, even if it was improvised, it lacked the fire and invention of his 
best work. It had the mournfulness that permeates all his music at certain points, but also 
a Debussy-ian sound to it, even traces of Romanticism. A certain phrase he played 
seemed directly reminiscent of 'Lisle Joyeuse.' There was perhaps too much 
concentration on the middle register of the piano, and on repeated phrases (in a way that 
approached banality). The thought flashed through my mind that maybe it was the music 
of an old man, operating at a more subdued ('mellower'?) level than his previous work, 
which didn't bode well for the rest of the concert (happily, I was to be proved wrong). 
Even the fleet-fingered right-hand runs up the piano seemed more like Impressionistic 
excursions than white-hot flourishes. 


Taylor and Oxl ey played two pieces, lasting in total about half an hour or 40 
minutes (I forget exactly). They left the stage, and on came William Parker, a large, 
hulking figure (from a distance, a bit reminiscent of Mingus in build) dressed in a 
baseball cap and flamboyant multicoloured shirt. Hunching over his instrument, he gave a 
virtouso showcase of technical dexterity with a real sense of ebb and flow, of structure 
and emotional logic, even though this was total improvisation (albeit he probably mulled 
over his plan of action beforehand). Alternating plucked, forcefully rhythmic bursts with 
bowed passages exploring high, cello-like sonorities and harmonics, sliding from song- 
like melody to buzz-saw helicopter imitation to a sad, almost pitiful whine, hinting at a 
middle-Eastern cadence at one point, turning cavernous, playing with dynamics, fading in 
and out on an obsessively repeated figure, before ending it all with final plucked notes 
drifting away like a death knell... 

What with the restrained nature of the Taylor/Oxley duo and the inevitable echoes 
of classical music you seem to get in a bass solo, you could be forgiven for thinking that 
this was a concert of modern classical music (though of course generic boundaries should 
not be too much of an issue when assessing Taylor - they are far more likely to end up as 
a stumbling block than an aid). With the final section, though, jazz elements came far 
more to the fore, in the main because of Braxton's presence. A shudder of excitement as 
Braxton finally comes onstage (having briefly appeared earlier to position his five or so 
saxophones), the eccentric professor with his scraggy necktie. Electronics seem to be 
used (Oxley?), though these are thankfully kept to a minimum. The atmosphere is 
hushed, expectant. Cecil creeps, elf-like, to the piano, and, hearing the sinister, primal 
sound of Braxton's contrabass clarinet, elects to pluck the piano strings rather than 
striking the keys. A cautious start - the musicians feeling their way, the music emerging 
gradually, the tension building as Braxton punctuates his subterranean rumblings with 
high pitched squeals, a chiaroscuro technique of extreme contrasts, while Parker bows 
away and Oxley flitters round the drum set. The contrabass clarinet is, one senses, 
somewhat unwieldy as a solo voice, yet for sound colour, for texture, it serves a valuable 

As they feel their way, it strikes me what a disparate bunch of people these are, 
yet how they manage to interact so naturally, to create a unified sound pattern - Taylor, 
small, nimble, twitching, forever active, inquisitive; Parker hulking over the bass, his face 
obscured by his baseball cap, tearing up and down the bass with his fingers or gently 
gliding his bow over the strings; Oxley white-haired, inscrutable, barely moving, apart 
from his hands, which are engaged in a kind of circular dance round his drum kit; 
Braxton, only half his face visible behind the enormous instrument he's playing, eyes 
closed in an agony of concentration. That's the real glory of free improvisation, I suppose 
- the fact that individuals can create something that's both convincing as a whole, as a 
unit (hence the name Taylor used for his bands, the 'Cecil Taylor Unit'), and as a 
statement of their individual personalities and styles. A truly democratic music that 
doesn't sacrifice emotional content for such ideals, but puts them into practice with often 
extraordinary results. 

The opening section of rumblings, enquiries, hesitancies, evolves into something 
more energised - Braxton switches to sopranino sax, inclining his head over to one side as 
Taylor moves from inside the piano to begin striking the keys, clearly inspired by the 


pianist's inventions as his runs begin to mimic Taylor's unstoppable note-flows. His 
playing becomes panic-stricken - a deranged, dying bird's screams as it flutters to 
death... or something more capricious than that, something even joyfully anarchic, 
impossible to pigeonhole - Oxley grins, his face finally betraying expression; Taylor 
looks over at him - a shared moment that betrays the high level of interaction these two 
have (which was somehow near-absent in their opening duo). 

Braxton's moved on to alto - he never spends that long with one instrument, 
realising the nature of this music, which is of constant change, the possibility to go in any 
direction (or several at once...) without sacrificing flow or structure. It also shows how 
aware he is of texture, of the sound canvas the group is producing, and of how he can 
vary and alter this. He waits there, holding the instrument, eyes closed, nodding and 
shaking his head from side to side, immersed in what Taylor and the others are creating, 
waiting for the right moment to enter the fray. When he does, he produces a throaty, hard, 
almost baritone-like tone. A high-pitched whistling sound from an unknown source - 
electronics manipulated by Oxley, perhaps (these are often a feature of his solo 
performances). Braxton is now on soprano and the mood changes to one of introspection, 
Parker bowing instead of plucking his bass, Braxton's keening, melodic playing bringing 
out Taylor's innate melancholy lyricism. 

He moves back to alto and the interaction 
between him and Taylor becomes clear, as he 
picks up on a melodic fragment tossed into the 
melting pot by the pianist one of his busy 
runs, expands on it and transforms it into 
something lyrical. Cecil insists on dialoguing 
with him, or beneath him - yet, as always, it's 
as much a dialogue with himself as with the 
other man, right and left hand existing as 
independent units, the left hand liberated from 
the supporting, chordal role it traditionally 
played in jazz, all part of Cecil's new 
conception of the soloist. Joe Zawinul's 
comment about Weather Report - "we always 
solo and we never solo" - could apply here, 
albeit in a slightly different way: in a sense, 
everyone is soloing at once, yet they are 
connecting to produce a convincing whole, 
and there is never a feel of egotism or 
sho wing-off flashy virtuosity. Taylor and Braxton are trilling; Braxton seems on the 
verge of playing a line from one of the standards he interprets in solo recitals - say, 
'Round Midnight'. How this could be considered 'intellectual', 'forbidding' playing should 
be a mystery to anyone hearing this man play. 

Slight reservations remain in my mind, impressive though this is - a feeling that 
Taylor and Braxton are interacting on an almost superficial level, focussing on call and 
response and exchanging motifs, rather than the more organic interaction of Taylor and 
Jimmy Lyons. It's hard to tell, and it's essentially subjective anyway - what's for sure is 


that even an inferior Taylor performance (by his standards), one that lacks that certain 
something his greatest work has, blows Polar Bear's first half set out of the water. This is 
truly on the edge - unpredictable, full of possibilities, of which only a few can be realised 
in one evening. A comment Elvin Jones once made about John Coltrane is relevant to this 
gig - it's like these men are sitting on a mountain of ideas and several flake off every few 

After a more boisterous passage, the music quietens again - preparation, as it turns 
out, for the final assault. Oxley taps his drum, diminuendo... shhh, shhh, shhh... Patterns 
have started to emerge, fitting into the ritualistic element introduced by Taylor's and 
Oxley's initial entrances on stage: Braxton and Taylor throw lines and melodies at each 
other, the rhythm section going full pelt, before subsiding into calmer lyricism, Oxley 
dropping out, then surging up again as Braxton pauses, wipes his face with a large blue 
handkerchief, picks up a different instrument, stands there listening, then re-enters, his choice of 
notes both being shaped by and shaping the flow of the music... Maybe this is a system they 
worked out beforehand, backstage, in discussion, maybe it's more intuitive than that - whatever 
the case, it's utterly convincing, the music progressing like the rising and falling of the ocean tide. 

Taylor suddenly solo - yes, yes, yes, he's found something - Braxton's nodding, 
bobbing, he knows it too - Parker plucks for his life. Oxley knows it - he's grinning, his 
hands moving more than ever, as if they have a life of their own. Taylor's runs won't stop, 
Braxton jumps into the stream of inspiration, his fingers fast, fierce, flinging off notes 
and sounds and colours... Whatever my reservations about what's come before, now I 
know, and they know that they've finally hit something, a sustained period of brilliance 
rather than the mere flashes seen previously - Braxton's circular breathing assault, the 
rhythm section boiling into a frenzy, Taylor inspired, his hands flying up and down the 
piano at near-superhuman speed.... 

Taylor ends it all with a short, sharp, dissonant chord. Inside me, a feeling both of 
elation at having witnessed such great music-making, and of regret at the fact that it was 
over. On the evidence of these last few minutes, if not the performance as a whole, the 
standing ovation the group received was well deserved - and where else in the world 
today could you find such music of such unadulterated sublimity, apart from under the 
fingers of Mr Cecil Taylor and Mr Anthony Braxton? 





|^B^. *%: , \s. 



"Af fz'mes, J/efr f/iaf f/iey had truly gone beyond the beyond - to echo Albert Ayler's famous 
phrase about his music, that it was about feelings, not notes." 
(Rod Warner on the gig at the 'Words and Music' blog ( 


For this concert, I decided to print two pieces from people who were at the gig. These 
originally appeared online: 'centrifuge ' posted his comments on the now-defunct 
'Church Number Nine ' blog, while Rod Warner 's review is still available at 'Words and 
Music ' (http://soundsandtexts. blogspot. com) . 


(1) Review by 'centrifuge' 

[The first act were Byron Wallen's trio], i have nothing against them personally at 
all, and they could have been any one of numerous well-turned-out british jazz groupings 
of the moment... [but] nothing they played made the slightest impression on me, and this 
had me meditating (again) on the whole business of commitment to art, to music in this 
case; these players have obviously worked very hard at their craft, have studied, at least 
two of them have written... they chose this music, somehow it seems hard to imagine that 
it could have chosen them, commitment, or just a choice of career? 

the contrast with ornette coleman could scarcely be more stark, because this man 
was chosen seemingly from birth, and unlike many of his predecessors he has the happy 
distinction of being recognised and feted in his own lifetime, ornette is famous, and 
although he is now getting on a bit, his visits are not so rare that all jazz fans felt obliged 
to attend this gig (same is true of taylor and braxton). some couldn't justify the 
considerable expense of seeing him again. . . and for some there was even the worry "what 
if it's shit?" would that tarnish the memories of previous glories? 

i didn't have the problem of worrying about that, because i had never seen him 
before and was determined that this was one guy i wasn't going to miss and regret not 

it was billed as a quartet gig: so just the two basses, not three - i read somewhere 
tony falanga arco contrabass and greg cohen bass guitar (which seemed odd), then at the 
rfh it was listed as falanga and al mcdowell; in any case, the first name announced by the 
mc was that of charnett moffett, which brought audible surpise from most and delighted 
applause. . .then falanga, then mcdowell, so out of the blue we had the three-bass combo 
after all... 

ornette walks on pretty slowly these days, leaving plenty of time for the audience 
to get excited, and his quiet words into the mic were in danger of being swamped - in any 
case i can't remember them precisely! but the gist was: he hoped this concert would bring 
us all the focus to do what we wished for most, that brought more grateful and polite 
applause (and probably a fair few raised eyebrows), and then - at least this is how i 
remember it - they were playing, and i was swaying in the aftershock of being thrown 
into the back of my seat by ornette's very first note, the power of it - of course he was 
playing straight into a mic, but still, everyone does, that the sheer directness of it was so 
unexpected: and it was all underway. 

moffett was the secret ingredient here: how long beforehand it had been 
established that he'd play, i don't know, but he really enjoyed himself from first note to 
last, playing contrabass with pedals and effects, initially pizzicato but arco when the 
mood took him, and he was unstoppable, he just flung himself into every note, his 
interaction with falanga in particular was fascinating to watch - i know nothing about 
falanga at all, but he gave me the impression of having come through the classical route, 
plays mostly arco (though again was quite happy to switch and get stuck in there with 
both hands, usually when moffett was bowing and using effects), and i would guess could 
make quite a cerebral pairing with greg cohen, not exactly the down-and-dirtiest rhythm 
section this music has ever known... mcdowell, too, plays his electric bass sitting down 
and with a watchmaker's precision, so i'm guessing it made a bit of a change for them to 


have someone like moffett come into the mix and tear it apart! falanga responded to 
everything moffett did, as well as initiating a few exchanges of his own - the two of them 
could have cooked all night. 

because he revisted that pitch again at intervals during the set, i had the 
opportunity to reflect more on the nature of ornette's directness, which pierces the heart 
every time it is employed, he really means it, he really lives it and he keeps at it because 
he still really means it: he genuinely hopes to inspire others to speak their honest truth in 
the way he has always spoken his. that directness is intended to cut through layers of 
defence and deception, and it does, in truth not everything he played on the night was 
memorable - certainly nothing he played affected me so much as that first entry (but man, 
WHAT an entry), though to be fair there were enough distractions in which to lose 
oneself: he was perpetually in danger of being upstaged by the rampaging moffett, by 
falanga's continuing "string romance" with the latter and by his thrasher of a son, 
threatening with the kit to drown out anyone who didn't play up a bit... but distractions 
aside, ornette is an elderly man now and has to husband his strength, he still wields his 
triple axe, switching to trumpet and violin not just on certain numbers but whenever he 
felt like it, and his brass flutterings and scraped strings both weave themselves well into 
the fabric of the band, and he has no trouble cutting through it all with his alto... but for 
most of the concert i have to admit he was not the focus of my attention and i doubt this 
would have been the case in years (perhaps long) past. 

if he keeps at it now, commits himself to touring and travelling when he could be 
(i presume) comfortably retired, it seems to be his honesty of purpose and the urgency of 
his message which keeps him going: people always need to be reached, the players can 
still benefit from the lessons, from the experience of playing with him, the message must 
be put across, and yet he never shouts, never even raises his voice... well, of course he 
does raise his voice, but he has a horn for that, and the message carries him in turn - his 
strength must be spent wisely but it is still considerable, allowing him to recover at once 
from heatstroke at the age of 77 and continue with a planned european tour almost 
immediately afterwards, this is a remarkable man, and i am, indeed, very glad i saw and 
heard him in the flesh. 

"In contrast to the intensity of the Cecil Taylor gig from the previous night, it was like 
getting slapped in the face by a slab of pure melody, and I just felt fully on air... " 
(Scott MacMillan at the 'Off Minor' blog ( ) 


(2) Review by Rod Warner 

The sky was darkening and it had rained a bit in the afternoon and I wasn't feeling 
too good but I made it back to the Festival Hall... Tonight, first up, the Byron Wallen Trio 
- an improvement on the previous evening's support act. More 'jazzy' - not that I am 
especially bothered about idiom - Wolf Eyes would have been a great start act in my 
book - but context is all... Yet.. .oddly enough, if Polar Bear had played tonight, maybe 
they would have fitted in better... does that seem overly perverse? It's a point I will 
elaborate on later... 

Wallen opened on piano - a slow, ruminative and rolling broad-chorded piece to 
get his feet under the table, as it were - eventually joined by his drummer and bass 
player. He switched to trumpet for the second piece and most of the set - showing wide 
range throughout from bat-squeak to low growl - an interestingly large sonic palette 
edged with a supple yet vulnerable lyricism. His themes used simple fragments of melody 
but were effective and memorable, often pivoting on the bass to supply ostinatos drawn 
from the melodies which provided a level of continuity that he and the drummer weaved 
skilfully around. They played confidently, seemingly unawed by the occasion and went 
down well. A point: they come off the jazz tradition but have developed their own strong 
conception - Wallen has a penchant for themes that reflect his African heritage and allied 
socially conscious isssues without beating you over the head - all the more effective 
perhaps. He utilised a shell ( a conch?) at one point, for example, and produced a 
hauntingly beautiful sound that integrated with the piece rather than being some worthy 
World Music add-on. They used freedom and space and didn't sound like a bebop revival 
band or a group overconsciously trying to be accessible to a wider audience... this was 
mature stuff played with great ease and spirit... A band to check out further... 

So: the house was well warmed up for the main event - Ornette and his ensemble, 
underpinned as ever by his son, the burly Denardo on powerhouse drums. Two bass 
players were advertised but he sported three - Tony Falanga and Al McDowell with 
Charnette Moffett added - one acoustic bass, one bass guitar, one electric standup. The 
sort of lineup that needs to be able to stay out of each others' way - which they pretty 
much did throughout. Falanga was mainly arco - one nice touch I noticed that showed the 
strength of his technique - and his hands - on 'Sleep Talking' (I think) when he held his 
thumb on a note for achingly long periods to create a bowed drone while using his fingers 
to trigger flurries of notes. Moffett arco and pizzicato, used his footpedals to good effect 
- 1 especially liked the wah wah combined with bow to create a swooning swooshing 
wave of sound. The bass guitar was played high up for most of the set, giving electric 
guitar figures - with some bluesy chording that reminded me of Jim Hall behind Jimmy 
Giuffre way back. McDowell drifted close to noodling a couple of times but in the main 
laid out some interesting and pointed lines. Denardo the grounding force - cymbals like 
razors, a strong flowing rhythm throughout - he's a heavy hitter, which is necessary, I 
figure, to keep this band on the track. 

Ornette was the arrow - saeta/cante hondo indeed, a searing, wrenching all too 
human tone on alto, plus see-sawing freejazz hoedown on violin - hip yiha - and spare, 
smearing forays on trumpet, an instrument upon which he has always been at the very 
least interesting, in my opinion, and which he plays better than some would have you 
believe. Ok, he used some stock phrases on the sax - but they were his inventions to 


deploy and he powered the ensemble onwards throughout, leading them accurately 
through those typically convoluted themes that stop and start and end so suddenly. 
Although the congregation is very much a democracy - as befits harmolodic 
metaphysics/theory, there is a lot of trust involved, shown by the way he lets his 
musicians run with the balls that are bounced out - backed by Denardo's rock solid 
rhythms. Operating on several levels, which is one of the fascinations of his music - his 
alto often riding in a slow drift as the beat doubles behind on drums and the others trade 
of fragments that slide off his themes. Never far from the blues, as evidenced by the 
loping dance through 'Turnaround,' a theme which locks him firmly in the back tradition 
to demonstrate where he came from -and the distance travelled. His present band 
represents something of a fascinating recapitulation of his career - from early freejazz 
breakthrough to Prime Time's electric weirdfreefunk - the electronic instruments are still 
there but not as dominant, the rhythms strong but suppler perhaps than the Prime Time 
experience - to his diagonal take on the european classical canon - a Bach cantata from 
Falanga that eventually mutated into - something else... His music has always been all- 
embracing and wide-open - so much to get in under the skies of America and beyond - 
and this performance amply demonstrates the point. Many of the freedoms he sought and 
discovered are created by the spaces that open between the different layers as much as by 
the overall direction(s) taken. 

He came back to rapturous applause and gave his usual encore - 'Lonely Woman' 
- and no problem with that to hear again the hauntingly beautiful refrain - where 
Falanga's arco bass comes into its own, especially... The crowd wanted more, of course - 
but a seventy-seven year old can only give so much... 

Last thoughts... interesting to consider Ornette with more of the emphasis now on 
being a composer and bandleader - the invention is still there with sudden flashes of the 
old left-field trajectories on saxophone, more so perhaps in the briefer but fascinating 
outings on violin and trumpet - but he didn't take any long solos tonight. His power on 
alto is still intact, however, marred slightly by a shrillness/distortion that crept in on some 
of the high notes and was more of a sound system problem - a reverse echo, oddly 
enough, of Anthony Braxton the previous evening who had been almost inaudible at first 
when he switched to alto. (Maybe they are still coming to terms with the acoustics of the 
new building?). This band serve as the perfect vehicle for him to ride out on with the 
overall fire of his imagination to drive it home. We came to praise Ornette and celebrate 
the fact that he is still with us and leading challenging lineups - this wasn't the heritage 
circuit. He deserved the warmth of the acclaim for what he has given - and what he gave 
this night - with such generosity. 

A mind-blowing two days . . .Ornette's music comes out of the blues, embraced 
electricity early on - and rock - and combined them better than most by keeping a cutting 
improvisational expansive edge that fusion in the main could not or would not attempt, so 
there was that sense of not being so very far from 'social' music, of engaging with popular 
forms in the same way that Miles Davis did. Taylor's muse took him down different 
routes. Can we say that Ornette was more linear, taking the older implicit - and explicit - 
freedoms of the blues into choppier waters, Cecil Taylor, with a pianist's conception, 
exploring - and shattering - harmonic forms with a denser formulation? Rhythm too - 
Ornette's was a freed-up bop rolling, Taylor's becoming a more abstracted pulse. But 
these visions are not mutually exclusive - Taylor uses melody more than you might think, 


the call and response structures of his culture coupled to a sharp bluesy edge, and 
Ornette's ensembles achieve a thrilling complexity where the lines criss-cross through in 
often joltingly exhilarating counterpoints and spatial movements. . . 

... the final point is that these giants are still with us and still indicating from 
different - yet surely compatible - positions the dynamic possibilities of freedom in 
music - and beyond. There are no narrow roads here... 

(squarepusher) - 

HALL, 16/07/2007. 

Review by David 

The weekend after the historic meeting between Anthony Braxton and Cecil 
Taylor at the Royal Festival Hall, another intriguing pair was scheduled to perform at the 
South Bank, this time at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. And, while one of them, Evan Parker, 
was, like Braxton and Taylor, a veteran of the avant-garde jazz/improv scene, his playing 
partner, Tom Jenkinson (a.k.a. Squarepusher), was a far more 'mainstream' musician, 
though one with a highly subversive aesthetic. Along with Richard D. James (Aphex 
Twin), he's sometimes lumped into the 'drill n' bass' or I.D.M. ('Intelligent Dance 
Music') bracket - for those unfamiliar with the terminology, it basically means that he 
produces electronic music with enough beats and bleeps to keep any raver happy (and 
"dancing around like a chicken on fire", in Jenkinson' s own words), but with plenty of 
dissonance, noise, and a dash of experimentation. Most importantly in relation to this 
particular collaboration, there's also a pronounced jazz influence, especially in his 
virtuosic bass playing, which he shows off from time to time - though he's got more in 
common with fusion-meister Jaco Pastorius than with free music bassists like William 
Parker or Sirone. 

All in all, an unlikely pairing - whose idea was it? Maybe Jenkinson saw what 
Spring Heel Jack have been getting up to in recent years and thought he'd like to dip his 
toe into the waters too - maybe Parker, who's worked with SHJ, was interested in finding 
common ground with another musician coming from the electronic/dance music scene. 
But this was probably more than just a random collaboration (both men would seem to 
have enough integrity not to be thrown into something out of media hype - and in any 


case, this didn't get too much attention in the press, though the hall was packed on the 
night). There is, though you might be hard-pressed to find it on first listen, a certain 
affinity between their musics, in intention if not execution: Tim O' Neil draws a parallel 
between Jenkinson's 'Ultravisitor', which he sees as an unsuccessful, "schizophrenic" 
attempt to fuse electronic and acoustic sounds, and Parker's 'Memory/Vision', which 
"bridge(s) the gap in a more intuitive manner. . . encourag(ing) the spontaneity of real-time 
interaction on the parts of both the electronic and acoustic portions of the composition." 

Anyway, encouraged to go out of curiosity as much as a hope that anything 
genuinely interesting could be achieved (though of course I was hoping for that too), I 
made my way to the QEH. I can't say I got full value for money (when you include 
transport to and from London) - this was a pretty short concert, clocking in at around 70 
minutes - and nothing revelatory happened to suggest that this is a collaboration with that 
much mileage in it, but it was intriguing enough nonetheless. Part of the problem was that 
Jenkinson restricted himself to the electric bass, discarding the electronics he normally 
deploys, which could have found common ground with Parker's own experiments in this 
direction, such as with his electro-acoustic ensemble. And, despite the fact that this was 
billed on the strength of being an unusual collaboration, they only actually played 
together for about 20 minutes: the first half was Jenkinson solo (playing four pieces in a 
36 minute set), the second half Parker solo (a 20 minute circular-breathing showcase on 
soprano), then the two playing together (with Parker switching to tenor). Even though 
they received rapturous applause (coming from the Squarepusher fanatics, I somehow 
suspect, considering the fact that there were loud screams whenever he finished playing), 
they only came out for an extra bow at the end - no encore. I read a rumour somewhere 
on the internet that Warp Records was recording and videotaping the concert, so maybe 
you'll be able to hear some portion of this music in a couple of months - and maybe 
they'll work together a bit more in the studio (hopefully with electronics), but, on the 
night, I felt a bit short-changed, though it was certainly no disaster. Here are some more 
detailed thoughts on the music. 

Though often linked with Aphex Twin, Jenkinson seems 
somewhat milder, less perversely weird, though he is liable to 
antagonize the audience ("I'm very into abusing the audience, 
whatever," as he told one interview), and is a pretty reclusive 
figure. On this occasion, he was businesslike - no showmanship, 
just a man with a bass guitar walking out onto a near-empty 
stage, acknowledging the raucous cheers of the audience with a 
gentle wave. Dressed in an open-necked shirt and suit trousers 
(virtually the same attire as Evan Parker - smart-casual, 
professional but not stuffy), he proceeded to play, standing still 
for the most part, occasionally taking a few paces to the side 
before returning to his original position. 
His opening improvisation was lyrical and guitar-like, as was much of his playing 
in the first set - in a similar vein to 'Everyday I Love', the beautiful short piece that 
closes 'Ultravisitor.' Of course, there were elements of Pastorius - how could there not 
be? - but it was less flashy and less 'jazzy' in its idiom, more introspective than 
Pastorius, an effect complemented by the subdued blue on-stage lighting. Jenkinson 
exploited the deep, resonant tone of the bass, but played his (fretted) instrument with 


more emphasis on chords than horn-like lines and runs. The mood was mostly one of 
gentle lyricism (in contrast to the harsh hyperactivity of something like 'My Red Hot 
Car', his best-known track), but there were louder sections, where, amplified by the 
sound engineers, he produced some loud and aggressive hard plucking sounds. 

In the second piece, he alternated between bursts of loud, rock-inflected playing 
and lyrical meanderings. By this stage, I was beginning to have a problem - there was a 
lack of any real sense of development; instead, all we were getting was little snippets 
which didn't coalesce very coherently (James Lincoln Collier makes a similar criticism of 
Miles Davis' playing in his book 'The Making of Jazz'). At one point, a song-like 
invention lead on to a more evocative, flowing passage that would have been at home on 
a film soundtrack. On the third piece, a muted opening saw more pronounced elements of 
jazz creep in, along with passages that reminded me of classical acoustic guitar music, 
before he went for a more prolonged virtuoso section, slapping the body and strings of 
the bass with relish to draw out some deep, throbbing, and sometimes very aggressive 

Overall, however, it felt like that sort of music that might appeal to musicians for 
its technical prowess (and you have to hand it to him, he is a very good bass player 
technically) but lacks heart, or a clear sense of direction - to put it in it simply, noodling. 
Little bursts of his Pastorius stylings on records may be nice, but hearing him unadorned 
in this context made me realize how they need the innovative soundscapes he conjures up 
with electronics and beats to make them reallv work. 

So, after a disappointing first set, I was expecting a lot more from the second half. 
Evan Parker duly obliged, delivering the sort of performance that has become almost 
routine for him now (I don't mean to suggest that it was a routine performance -far from 
it, it was extraordinary and compelling, and he does it as well now as he ever has). Using 
circular breathing techniques, whereby the performer inhales through the noise, while air 
stored in the cheeks is exhaled, through the mouth, into the reed of the instrument, he is 
able to avoid the usual pause-driven nature of the solo, and instead create mesmeric 
instant compositions which paint a compelling musical landscape. Constant coils of 
motion are interspersed seamlessly with high-pitched squeaks, reminiscent of seabirds 


circling over the rolling, endless beauty of the sea (a somewhat pedestrian and cliched 
comparison, maybe, but one that really stood out in my mind at the time). He's developed 
a way of playing like two men, creating two parallel lines which are played in such close 
temporal relation that they seem to occur simultaneously. His left hand maintains a 
circular run, while his right hypnotically punches out a counterpoint, and the shrill bird- 
cries (harmonics?) pepper the mixture to add what is essentially a third line, which 
becomes more and more unearthly as he continues, now evoking flutes, violins, bird calls 
of course, but above all, he is playing SOUNDS - and sound is what Parker and many 
other free improvisers are interested in above all. About fifteen minutes in, I realize that 
he's been playing the same motifs for several minutes - producing a similar effect, now I 
come to think of it, to Terry Riley's classic minimalist works like 'A Rainbow in Curved 
Air' or 'Morning Corona'(from Robert Ashley's film series 'Music with Roots in the 
Aether'). I suddenly notice the feeling of a dance - is Parker playing Eastern European 
dance themes in the middle of the swirling vortex of sound? Even if that was just an 
auditory illusion, his improvisation did echo that moment when spinning dancers become 
whirls of colour only, moving so fast that their form becomes indecipherable and they 
appear as abstractions. 

It was hard to see any similarity between this and the Squarepusher solo set, apart 
from the fact that they had been performed by two men standing on the stage of the 
Queen Elizabeth Hall, improvising solo and sharing the same bill. How would they 
interact? They seemed to be coming from completely different places - Jenkinson 
technically superb, showing off his chops in fast-fingered runs up and down the bass as 
well as playing lyrically, yet never really developing his fragments into a seamless whole, 
while Parker created music of great fixity, change occurring incrementally, 
imperceptibly, in a piece that felt static (in a good way) despite the constant motion. 
There were no pauses or discontinuities - just one wave of sound rolling round and round 
on itself and revising itself before going round again. 

But here it was, the event round which the whole concert essentially revolved - 
the meeting of Squarepusher and Evan Parker. Jenkinson came back on stage (as usual, to 
tumultuous audience reaction), and Parker switched from soprano to tenor sax. As they 


began, the bassist concentrated on busy rumblings beneath Parker's tenor chatterings, 
both creating a hyperactive, spidery, twitching dialogue. They seemed to be interacting 
well; Jenkinson initiated a crescendo motif, to which Parker responded, before taking that 
into a more hyperactive feel, which the bassist picked up on. He didn't seem overawed by 
Parker, which could easily have happened, considering his newness to the field of free 
improv, where Parker's attained near-venerated status - instead, the older man spurred 
him on to be much more adventurous and coherent than in his solo set, adapting to the 
rigorous demands of this style of music-making with aplomb. You could see him 
watching his partner, listening for the right moment to drop out and come back in again, 
what to play to complement the saxophone line, to create a separate line that was still in 
dialogue with the other yet had an independence of its own, that didn't solely on being 
complementary, on playing a supporting role (though if anyone could be said to have 
taken the lead, it was Parker). Certain stylistic tics showed Jenkinson' s background - he 
would tend to play very fast repeated motifs beneath Parker's more abstract avant- 
gardisms, for example - but the music nevertheless had a natural ebb and flow to it, 
moving from hyperactivity to sparse moments where Parker's breathy sax floated over 
Jenkinson' s clanging, bell-like bass. It all fitted Jenkisnon's left-field image - near the 
end, he went crazy, hands going up and down the bass in a mad circular motion - but he 
didn't subordinate artistic integrity to wanky, hollow 'freakiness', and, as a result, this 
was compelling listening. Consequently, the applause when they finished, as so often 
happens in improv, quietly, after going through some gorgeous high, rippling, watery 
sounds, was well deserved. 

Review by David Grundy. 

RED ROSE, FINSBURY PARK, LONDON, 24 th October 2007. 

Journeying to this gig, I had that pre-concert feeling of anticipation, excitement, 
deriving from the fact that I didn't know what I was going to hear, even though I'd seen 
the programme, and I knew who was performing, so I had a general idea, given 


familiarity with the personal styles and work of the players. Still, in classical music, no 
matter how revelatory the performance, however much a conductor or an orchestra or a 
soloist opens up new ways of viewing the work they're performing, it's always a pre- 
existing piece which doesn't change its essential character (except in very exceptional 
circumstances). By contrast, improv's essential character is that it is changing, unfixed. 

Of course, any excitement I felt was tempered by the fact that this was a tribute to 
Rutherford: his loss weighs all the more heavily because of the neglect he suffered, both 
critical and commercial. It was at the Red Rose that he gave his last public performance, 
in a trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Matios (both on the bill for this concert, 
although Matios was unable to make it in the end), and it was appropriate that the tribute 
took place here. Clearly, a big concert hall wasn't going to honour him - aside from Cecil 
and Ornette at the Royal Festival Hall, that sort of thing rarely happens. And perhaps it's 
a good thing: the working men's club atmosphere of the Red Rose provides a down-to- 
earth, non-elitist context. Intellectually rigorous (as well as visceral) music this may be, 
but high-flown tra-la-la it is not: it's made to the smell of stale beer, not to sparkling 
champagne glasses. 

Above: violinist Philip Waschmann 

The concert started at 7PM and finished around 11:15. A huge variety of artists 
had been squeezed onto the bill - all for only a fiver (cones), and, as you'd expect, the 
RR was pretty full. It's a tribute to the esteem in which musicians, at least, held 
Rutherford that so many of the great and good from the world of British jazz and improve 


were all performing on the same evening - it really was what they call a 'star-studded 
line-up.' Because of this, there was a real sense of occasion, which at times threatened to 
become over-the-top, over-polemical, somewhat at the expense of musical considerations 
(as in Veryan Weston and Maggie Nichol's fiercely Old Left 'Political Duo'). Overall, 
though, the tone generally managed to avoid being too morbid or too hagiographical. 

There were eleven different groups, climaxing with the London Improvisers' 
Orchestra, which incorporated many of the musicians who'd previously been on stage in 
smaller groups. The first performance harked back to Paul's jazz roots, playing in Mike 
Westbrook's big band (which was a stamping ground for many of the finest British 
improvising musicians, of many persuasions - Alan Skidmore, Keith Rowe, Mike 
Osborne, Phil Minton, and John Surman, to name just a few). Westbrook sat at the 
battered old upright piano that had been dragged on stage for the evening (it made 
vibrating noises whenever he pressed a key). "Paul was a great player of the blues," as he 
commented afterwards, and he played a piece which Rutherford had particularly enjoyed 
when with the big band, 'Creole Blues.' It was nice to be reminded how diverse his 
career had been (as has that of many of the people I saw that night) - an all-round 
musician, a man of enormous, multi-faceted talent. Joining Westbrook were Chris 
Biscoe, who took a relaxed bass clarinet solo with touches of Dolphy-esque fire, and 
Alan Wakeman, whose soprano sax solo Biscoe accompanied with drowsy bass clarinet 
shades, before Westbrook dropped out and the two horn players engaged in a duet which 
grew in intensity and volume, becoming progressively more 'out,' until the performance 
ended with a return to the blues theme. Was it just me, or did that old melody have a 
bittersweet, elegiac feel to it which perfectly suited the occasion? Whatever the case, it 
was a nicely-judged jazz performance which, I suppose, eased us in gently before the 
more abstract and experimental music to come. 

Next up, another trio, led by another stalwart of the British jazz scene, Harry 
Beckett, veteran of Chris MacGregor's Brotherhood of Breath and many other musical 
concerns. He led a punchy, no-nonesense fifteen-minute set with Tony Marsh on bass (a 
late replacement for cellist Marcio Mattios, who I'm sure would have given the 
performance an entirely different dimension) and Nick Stevens on drums. Physically, 
there was quite a contrast between the short, leather-jacketed, pugilistic-looking 
trumpeter and the polar-necked bassist (who reminded me somewhat of an ageing 
beatnik), but musically, they were completely compatible. Although more modernistic 
than Mike Westbrook's trio, the rhythm section in particular gave proceedings a jazzy 
edge - sort of one step beyond advance bop, on the verge of settling into a groove but 
resisting it, scattering impulses. They provided an ever-changing backdrop to which 
Beckett responded, although I wouldn't say that they were guiding him, as this was a 
grouping of equals in which each listened to the other. There was more space in the 
trumpet playing than in bass and drums - Beckett would maintain a silence, weighing up 
the situation before emerging in bursts of hard-edged brassiness, his tone with a low- 
edged vibration to it rather than the high, squawk more commonly associated with the 
instrument's use in jazz. Marsh added virtuoso display: there was much bowing and 
hyperactive plucking, and, at one point, he played his instrument with drumstick brushes. 


The third set saw yet more musicians who'd been active in the flourishing 60s and 
70s scene (and are, of course, still active today): the husband-and-wife team of Keith 
Tippett and Julie Tippetts, joined by South-African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo 
and trombonist Dave Amis. With his sideburns and waistcoat, Tippett is unmistakable - 
there's more than a touch of the Victorian eccentric about him, at least in appearance. 
Performing in a huge thick, heavy overcoat, and a scarf (which had to be fetched from an 
audience member before he would start playing), his touch on piano, by way of contrast, 
was frequently light and flowing. Just as the previous set had finished mid-phrase, so this 
one started without warning: Evan Parker was still on-stage to announce the band, when 
he realised that they had started playing behind him (the sound-check metamorphosing 
into the performance) and quickly moved out of the way. It began quietly, with Tippett' s 
repeated arpeggios, and his wife's low- voiced vocal lament, moving on to skittish 
advanced techniques, complementary swells and growls from the trombone; some piano 
motorisms sparked a tempo change - but, as with all improvised music, such blow-by- 
blow description is only a very broad-brush account of the work. Taking account of every 
nuance and change and transition misses out the way that the piece had a real sense of 
structure, resulting from the musicians' decades-old, in-built discipline. Even an average 
performance will thus be nothing less than compelling - and that's just as well, as none 
of the music on the night hit any particular heights (which is not a surprise considering 
the packed schedule and the time-constraints this placed on the players). 

From what was pretty much straight-ahead (if adventurous) jazz, each act was 
going further into the more esoteric realms of free improv, and the duet between 
trombonist Robert Jarvis and electronics man Lawrence Casserley had a very different 
feel to what preceded it. Both men had been members of Iskra Cubed, one of 
Rutherford's last projects (and, in fact, Jarvis had been employed on electronics in that 
role). Casserley's mastery of what was announced as 'signal processing' is apparent not 
just in the speed with which he can react to what a live instrumentalist is playing, but in 
the way that he can incorporate this into a musical performance, where he doesn't feel 
disadvantaged in any way: the interaction is real, the music organic, the textures and 
sounds often strange. Electronics added extra dimensions to the trombone's farty, windy 
physicality, and drowsy, mysterious slurs: metal, percussive clanging, sounds that are still 
striking and fresh even though electronics has become almost de rigeur in the 
underground music scene. 


This was probably the shortest set of the night: a couple more (acoustic) duos 
followed. Trombonist Gail Brand and tenor saxophonist Simon Picard's piece was 
rather muted and downbeat, homophonic melancholy being the prevailing texture and 
mood, although this did lead to some slightly more energised abstract speculation. Of 
course, they were both wearing all-black (which seems to be a kind of uniform for a lot of 
free improvisers), which tied in with the gloomy feel. Not the most compelling music of 
the night, it has to be said, although one little incident made it stand out. At one point, a 
mobile phone went off, but, for a split second, I thought what I heard had been generated 
by the trombone - a tropical bird, a little glitch, fitting in with the sounds Brand was 
producing at the time, it was a well-nigh perfect illustration of the way that freely 
improvised music can interact with those 'distractions' which would be completely 
disruptive in most other musical contexts - a radical conclusiveness, or, in a parallel 
which would no doubt have pleased Paul Rutherford, communism in sound. 

The second duo was a two-sax affair with an appearance by Lol Coxhill, which is 
always a welcome thing. (His most recent disc is, in fact, a series of duos with various 
artists, released on Emanem Reccords). On this occasion, he was paired with Pete 
McPhail on baritone. A bit tougher and grittier than Brand and Picard, the lines dipped 
and dived and flowed in a more untethered way. Coxhill' s soprano was both brazen and 
swooning in a piece that was full of incident, but never really settled on any one feel or 
motif for a long period of time. Though McPhail was in black, Coxhill broke the mode 
with his bright orange shirt, and you might say that his playing reflected something of the 
exuberance that suggested. 

In the final set before the interval, the three trombonists who'd 
already appeared (Gail Brand, Dave Amis, and Robert Jarvis) 
came back on stage, joined by another trombonist, Alan 
Tomlinson, for what was billed as 'Trombone Fiesta.' 
An experiment with acoustics, it saw each member of the 
quartet place themselves in a different corner of the room, 
bouncing sounds of the walls and off each other. It felt as if the 
audience was caught in the middle somewhat, and, considering 
the loudness with which trombones could play, it was 
sometimes rather painful for the ears, although it wasn't all 
bombast: in one supremely unsettling section, dark, dribbling, 
muted, splattering notes pinged round the room, as if the sound 
waves were crawling insidiously round the walls. A bit of a 
performance gimmick, perhaps (they moved into the audience 
as well), but an interesting number nonetheless. 

The first item following the interval was not musical, although very much 
concerned with music: a presentation of Rutherford's instruments to the Cuba Solidarity 
Committee. You could question the validity of supporting Castro's regime (just because 
he's been a thorn in the side of the US for decades shouldn't blind us to his dodgy human 
rights record) - and I'm sure many people there did - but it was a nice gesture, and a 
damn sight more useful thing to do than some rock musician festooning his wall with un- 
played guitar trophies, which will end up in some museum after his death, the purpose 
they were made for virtually forgotten. A statement from Paul's family was read out, 


which included the sentence: "there are more music in Cuba than there are instruments." 
Who knows what the trombones will be used for, but at least they'll be used. 

Following on from this event with vaguely political resonances came some overt 
agitprop from vocalist Maggie Nicols and pianist Veryan Weston, the 'duo politico', 
both wearing appropriately red tops (Nicols' ordering us to "make capitalism history"). 
The only time that night, apart from Mike Westbrook's opening blues, that any written 
material was involved, they delivered a programme of old revolutionary songs. 'I saw Joe 
Hin last night' was taken very straight, evolving into free improvisation with the usual 
panapholy of shrieks and moans, before seguing into the more jazz/Latin flavoured 
groove of 'Dynamite Dream' ("revolution is natural, it's not an aberration"), and, finally, 
that old warhorse 'L'Internationale', to provide a rousing conclusion. For an audience 
dedicated to free improvisation, strange that it was this composed material that got the 
biggest cheer of the night so far. . . 

If that was overly polemical for some (including me), what followed was a 
mouth-watering, and purely musically-minded, first-time-ever supergroup of sorts: a 
quartet of Evan Parker on tenor sax, Kenny Wheeler (almost 80 now) on trumpet, 
Philip Waschmann on violin, and Steve Beresford on piano (pictured above). Despite 
Wheeler's slightly frail appearance, the ensemble was dominated by his voice - 
Beresford kept his inclination towards anarchism in check, and the complementary 
sounds of tenor and violin gave the whole thing an almost classical edge, in terms of 
texture at least. Nobody ever settled into anything too comfortable - there were moments 
when Parker could have easily gone into his circular breathing routine, or Wheeler into 
ECM-melodicism, but neither did, keeping their contributions pithy and to-the-point, 
letting themselves be lead by sound rather than trying to lead it themselves. 

One more duo to follow, which saw the appearance of Henry Lowther, another 
trumpeter and another versatile musician who's played with Graham Collier and Gil 
Evans, as well as much studio session work (including with rock band Hawkwind, at one 


point). He was paired with John Russell, probably the leading guitarist in free music 
after Derek Bailey, and the somewhat strange combination of instruments was made to 
work convincingly. Russell is obviously influenced by Bailey - hard not to be, in this 
field - but his playing is perhaps less icy, while, in Lowther's hands, the muted trumpet 
had a piercing clarity: a hard, bright, slightly pinched sound miles away from the usual 
melancholy eeriness that mutes tend to produce. Although it did feel rather like soloist 
and accompanist - Lowther sending out melodic signals over thorny guitar - it was a nice 
palette-cleanser before the extravagant orchestral textures of the London Improvisers' 

There were so many musicians involved in this collective that they couldn't all fit 
on the stage, some clustered on the floor around its edges, cramming up every single inch 
of space available. Obviously, this involved considerable organisation difficulties, so 
there was a short second interval. When the music came, it was similarly packed and 
dense - there was no conduction, no score, and, seemingly, no plan, and it was easy to 
become lost in (whether you view this in a good or a bad sense). Consequently, it's hard 
to describe: much of it was a constant wash of sound, different things happening all at 
once, and individual voices end up getting rather lost. A joyful noise, or angry 
anarchism? It was hard to tell: the performance approached cacophony, and I think there 
were times when it crossed the line into that (some of the musicians seemed to sense it 
too, Steve Beresford sitting for long periods of time at his piano, not touching the keys, 
aware that nobody could hear anything he was playing). There were also moments, 
though, when everything ebbed, and Maggie Nicols' voice entwined with flute, clarinet 
and violin to create mournful, ambivalent, atmospheric soundscapes. It eventually ended, 
past the planned finishing time, with Nicols singing "we love you so much" and 
everything - eventually - fading away. 

Ultimately, this was an occasion whose sombre moments didn't become 
oppressive, and at all times there was maintained an appropriate degree of respect and 
sense of sadness at Rutherford's passing. I'll leave the last word to Emanem label boss 
Martin Davidson, who introduced the final set by the LIO. "Last of all, I'd like to say 
thank you to Paul Rutherford, for being such an inspiration, but also such a wonderful 
human being. We miss you, but we remember you, and the memory will stay. " 


Above: London Improvisers' Orchestra. 

Charles Gayle's story is a remarkable one. After 
playing 'free music' as early as the 1950s 
(according to him, he was playing free before 
players like Ornette Coleman caused such a big 
splash in the late 50s/early 60s). However, he 
was considered too far out even by free jazz 
record companies, and fell into decline - though 
he apparently recorded a trio sessions for ESP in 
the early 70s, this was at the time when the 
company was collapsing, due to heavy 
bootlegging, according to Bernard Stollman, and 
it was never released. He became homeless and 
busked for a living - the archetypal image of the 
artist misunderstood by the public playing on 
through adversity - a somewhat romanticised 
image perhaps. Anyway, in the late 80s he was 
discovered by a Danish record producer and 
played popular shows at the Knitting Factory. 
Since then he has recorded over 30 albums. 


In recent years his music has started to incorporate more traditional elements: 
he's covered bop tunes and standards, and, as well as his trademark white plastic alto, 
begun to play a gruffly lyrical piano (his first instrument) with touches of Monk, 
especially on ballads, in which he employs sprinkly right hand runs and a punchy left 
hand. His piano playing is beautiful and completely different in character, and a real 
revelation - it's akin to the sober, studied style of Andrew Hill, still drenched with 
emotion, just not the white hot stuff he does on his saxophone. A truly multi-faceted 
artist. He's antagonised audiences who love his music, but are left-wing and hate his 
views - because of his rants about abortion and homosexuality, and his adoption of the 
persona of the Street Clown. 

He recently came for a week-long tour of the UK with bassist William Parker and 
drummer Mark Sanders, and will be appearing with a different trio at the LJF next month. 
Here are a couple of gig reviews of that UK tour: appearances in Liverpool (Rod 
Warner's review, originally at 'Words and Music' (http://soundsandtexts. 
and London's Red Rose (Scott McMillan's review, which originally appeared at 
'Mapsadaisical' ( 

(1) Charles Gayle/William Parker/Mark Sanders at the Everyman Bistro, 
Liverpool, September 17th 2007. 

The gig venue is beneath the Everyman theatre in Liverpool, part of the Bistro 
complex of three rooms. Passing through the other two, you come to the performance 
space - oblong, with table seating. People fill the place up, with quite a few latecomers 
(what's new there?) but a creditable crowd. Organizers Frakture obviously know how to 
get the vote out, as it were... They got their money's worth... 

The musicians take their places at the end of the room - no stage. No P. A. - which 
wouldn't be needed in this space anyway, a small amp for the bass the only added 
electricity. These three will generate plenty of their own over the next two sets... Mark 
Sanders, almost boyish in comparison to his two cohorts tonight on this tour - Charles 
Gayle and William Parker, stalwarts of the vibrant New York 'free jazz' scene -and 
beyond. Both striking figures yet contrasted - Parker, a large bear of a man as befits a 
bass player, maybe, of his power, smiling, almost avuncular. Gayle, a ramrod thin tall 
man, with a serious face that has a clouded, mysteriously inward look to it (although I 
saw him in the interval in conversation and he smiled frequently, displaying a completely 
different facet to his character). 

They start up, Gayle floating lines across a quickly busy backdrop from bass and 
drums - although this is no sax plus rhythm show - each part of the trio is integral to the 
sound. Gayle is playing a white plastic alto rather than his usual tenor - an iconic 
instrument. And you can trace the lineage from Bird - blindingly fast playing - to Ornette 
- a strong melodic freedom and a way of floating across a busy rhythm before locking 
back in with a vengeance - via Eric Dolphy (to my ears) in some of the skittering 
intervallic jumps. Yet Gayle is manifestly his own man, a veteran whose mysterious roots 
go back to the free jazz days of the sixties - he is older than Parker and the younger 
Sanders - a superior technique fine-honed down the years that may pay homage where 
applicable but flows free with his own strong voice. Gayle is renowned for his squalling, 
screaming intensity yet held back some of this tonight to concentrate on spirals of fast- 
moving melody - laced with a fair share of vocal inflection and high-register playing yet 


these all seemed integrated into his overall style - moving effortlessly and at a dizzying 
speed between what effect he feels necessary to enhance the proceeding line. Parker takes 
a bass solo which is muddied a little by the room's acoustic but still displays his warm 
virtuosity. Sanders takes his moment, a hard-hitting solo, rhythmic density and movement 
effortlessly slapped out - he more than holds his own in this company throughout. 
Towards the end of the set Parker hits a walk a couple of times to balance and colour the 
intensity - because this is high-octane stuff- answered by the others as they move into 
more conventional swinging patterns. At the end, the place is rapturous - you are aware 
that you have witnessed something special - yoo hoo! Wild music that hits the head, 
heart and feet... 

Second set. After all that preceding fire, one wonders, can they hold that level 
throughout? To which the answer is: YES! A similar easy-going start before Gayle hits 
his declamatory phrases - Parker using arco bass a couple of times to saw out jagged 
lines at a higher volume, at one point chasing a motif he dropped in and out of throughout 
across the registers, coming off with an amazing slithering glissando up and down the 
neck executed with virtuosic control, essaying swooning vocalised figures that seemed to 
be telling a joke of some kind. Gayle blows wild and free, then drops back to play a frail 
melody that opens up the space and lets the drums through, emphasizing the equality of 
this band. The music becomes more pointillistic to contrast with the overall multi-noted 
density, Gayle fragmenting his line. Deep into the set Parker is swaying at his bass with a 
joy that comes across vividly. Towards the end they just lift off to stunning levels of wild 
intoxication - Sanders takes another solo, smacking high harmonics off his cymbals, stick 
between teeth as he used a hand to hammer his drums - truly music of the body as well as 
the mind. Coming in to the end you realise that these guys just do not FALTER. Gayle 
lets rip, fast and hard in a ferocious interlocking dance with bass and drums to produce 
music that reaches deep down into my soul and rips it AWAKE. 


" is the role of the artist to incite political, social, and spiritual revolution, to awaken 
us from our sleep and never let us forget our obligations as human beings, to light the 
fire of human compassion. Sounds that enlighten are infinite. We can put no limit to joy, 
or on our capacity for love. " 
(William Parker and Patricia Nicholson Parker, 'Blueprint for a Cultural Revolution') 

Finally: thanks to Frakture ( http ://frakture . org ) for providing such a great gig - I know 
only too well what a hassle and sometimes thankless task organising these occasions can 
be. Applause all round... And I had a great time in Liverpool - looking forward to the 
next visit... 

(2) Charles Gayle, William Parker and Mark Sanders, The Red Rose, 21/09/07 
Review by Scott McMillan 

Ashley Wales' Back In Your Town night continues to provide us with some of the 
most exciting improvisation to be found anywhere in clubland. And I mean clubland; the 
Red Rose, situated on a most unappealing stretch of the Seven Sisters Road to the South 
West of Finsbury Park has the charm of a decades-old working men's club. But look 


between the multiple TVs tuned to Sky Sports and the chalkboards showing 
such endearingly precise prices as "Bitter £2.12", and you will see the walls are festooned 
with pictures of performers - the room through the back is what you are looking for if you 
need a bit of free jazz or live comedy to lift your spirits in this part of North London. 

[Note - more's the pity that it's now being converted into a pool hall, thus leaving 
regular improv events without a venue and potentially proving a major blow to the 
availability of improvised music in the capital]. 

Photos © Andy Newcombe 

As a prelude to the main act, Steve Beresford and Neil Metcalfe performed an 
excellent piano/flute duet. The level of listening and the speed of the reactions to each 
other was extraordinary - whether Beresford would stumble upon a phrase, or Metcalfe 
chanced upon a melody, the other would take it, bash it around for a bit, and hand it back 
for further work. It was probably inevitable given their respective choice of instruments 
that Beresford would excite most, leaping as he did from the thunderous rumble on the 
left to the flashes of lightning on the right, nearly falling off his stool as he did so. 



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Mark Sanders had barely managed to finish his thanks to those involved with the 
organisation of this tour when the impatient and cross-looking Gayle burst in with his 
white alto, leaving Sanders and William Parker tearing after him in chase. Immediately, 
intensity levels were extremely high; at times all three musicians had their eyes closed in 
concentration, as they tried to align their respective cog with the revolutions of this great engine. 

Parker was the first to be given a solo, a long 
(picture the impatient Gayle glowering stage 
right), fast (I had to check that he in fact has 
only five fingers on each hand) thing which 
seemed to be constantly fighting against an 
urge to develop some funk. He took a glorious 
- and much shorter - arco solo later, deft as they 
come, and bursting with melody. These were 
moments to savour - during the ensemble 
pieces the muscular Parker's work became at 
times surprisingly buried amidst the hullabaloo 
being created around him. 
Sanders's moments in the spotlight were disappointingly brief: as I write, I'm 
listening to his solo record Swallow Chase on Wales' Treader label, and he is clearly 
capable of creating sublime extended percussion pieces. By some distance the youngest 
man on stage, he played a mostly subservient role, but played it with the utmost quality 
and consistency - marvellously responsive, switching between the sticks, brushes, and 
mallets, and using every square centimetre of every surface available to him to produce 
the fullest array of sounds, but in the most unshowy fashion. Towards the end of a piece 
which had kicked off as an Ayler-esque march, Gayle and Parker lured him into a drums 
versus sax and bass showdown; Sanders fought his corner with aplomb, matching their 
knotty phrases with is own intricate shapes. 

Gayle' s sax playing was, as you would have expected, incendiary throughout the 
evening, featuring coruscating Coltrane-like runs into upper registers, all played with a 
huge, chewy vibrato. However the quality of his piano playing was an unexpected 
surprise to me - he would feel his way in before playing with Bley-ish style, humming 
and singing as he went. When, at the start of the second piano trio piece, Parker and 
Sanders led off at brisk pace, a grin broke out for the first time on Gayle' s face, 
appreciating the challenge he was being set, and responding with relish. This image was 
in contrast to the stern, forceful leader we had seen throughout the evening, calling 
players in, before shutting them out with a blast from his horn. After the evening faded 
out with Gayle playing a snatch of Tyner on piano ("Naima", if I remember correctly, 
which would be a first), this stony facade was finally shattered by his humble and 
heartfelt thankyou speech. As he signed off with "There may be three of us, but we're a 
quartet - you are the fourth person", suddenly he was once more just a thin, gaunt looking 
old man, and the fourth person showed their appreciation with a huge and massively 
deserved ovation. 


(November 2007) Review by Ian Thumwood 

Back in November, I made the trip up the M3 to catch Joshua Redman's trio, as 
part of their UK tour. If you have the chance to catch them live, I would thoroughly 
recommend this group, albeit the substitution of Gregory Hutcherson on drums for 
Antonio Sanchez from the group that played Vienne in July gave this band a totally 
different feel. 

Back in the summer, the repertoire and approach seemed to tip the hat towards 
Sonny Rollins even if the sax trio has now undergone something of a radical rethink since 
those halcyon days of the late 1950's. Time to move on, I think. 

Last night I was fortunate to sit a few rows back from the stage and became 
totally wrapped up in this group's music. Whilst I must admit not to have been a fan of 
Redman Jr's playing on the two previous occasions that I had heard him live with an early 
trio and Kurt Rosenwinkel's band (gave the Elastic Trio a miss), this concert has really 
made me re-think his music. As a friend said after the encore, the interplay resembled 
that of Lucky Thomspon's trio with Petttiford and Betts. Indeed, Redman's tone has 
something of the furry quality of Thompson's and the concentration on spinning 
convoluted and jivey improvised lines between the tenor and bass added to this sense. 
The interplay between the three players was amazing, the bass work of Rueben Rogers 
nothing less than staggering whether providing a pulse for the drummer and Redman to 
exchange lines around or under-pinning the saxophonist's solos with intelligently 
considered intervals. 


In one composition, they imaginatively used silence between the dialogue 
between the bass / horn and the drums so that the couple of beats with pauses actually 
swung. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the communication between the three players. 

Most of the material was original although there was a frisky version of "Surrey 
with the fringe on top" to open up the session and a work out on "East of the sun" that 
ended up with Redman playing so far beyond the structure of the tune that the reprise of 
the melody came almost as a shock. You had to ask yourself just how did he managed 
to get there. 

Incidentally, although Redman is less convincing on soprano, the one piece that 
featured this horn included a chorus of multi-phonics and circular-breathing that was 
demonstrative to these ears of how the American has clearly checked out the likes of 
Evan Parker. Odd to think that jazz has now moved on so far that a "Mainstream" 
player can now comfortably incorporate devices into his playing such as this. 

By and large, this concert eschewed gallery-pleasing crescendos and the tone of 
the music was generally relaxed and considered - not unlike the approach of Wayne 
Shorter's current group. When the music did build up to a climax, it came across as 
entirely spontaneous. 

As I said previously, the jury was definitely out with regard to Joshua Redman up 
until I heard the two versions of his trio this year but this current group is right on the 
money. Bassist Rueben Rogers has also proved himself to be a wonderfully responsive 
and "listening" bassist. 

This is a great band and anyone who likes there jazz to be thoughtfully considered 
as opposed to representing the rush of blood to the head will find much to admire live. 

Photo by Greg Stewart ( ) 


Above: saxophonist Virginia Genta of the Jooklo Duo. 

CAMBRIDGE, 21 st November 2007. Review by David Grundy 

This was a rare occasion indeed: a visit to the UK by the great Sonny Simmons, 
someone who's played with all the greats (Rollins, Mingus, Dolphy, even Jimi Hendrix) 
and who, like Charles Gayle, had to survive a period of homelessness before making his 
comeback in the 1990s. Adept on the English horn as well as the alto sax, the context in 
which he was appearing this time was definitely not the sort that would let him 
demonstrate his prowess on that instrument. He was paired with 'Tight Meat,' who 
usually perform as a duo, consisting of two Scots: saxophonist David Keenan (also a 
journalist and author who writes for 'The Wire' magazine) and drummer Alex Neilson. 
For these dates, bassist George Lyle was added. 

A somewhat unusual tour, given that Simmons has several times expressed his 
dislike of free players who don't vary their playing. He never mentions anyone specific, 
but, given his performance on the night and on record, I would have thought that David 
Keenan would be the sort of person he had in mind. He seemed to have one mode: very 
loud and very dissonant. You know the sort of thing: if you're into free jazz, you've 
probably heard it many times before. Meanwhile, Simmons can certainly go 'out there', 
but he always prefers to come back to a melody - a jazz standard, a song from a show, a 
Thelonious Monk tune. Keenan was having none of it, as I'll go on to explain. . . 


I caught them in the back room of a pub in Cambridge, with an audience of, at a 
maximum, 40 people, which says some sorry things about how this country values 
creative improvised music. What with the London Musicians' Collective losing its arts 
council funding and the Red Rose shutting down, it's not a wonder that someone like 
Paul Rutherford became very bitter and depressed at times. 

But I digress - returning to the matter at hand, here are my impressions of this 
particular concert. The first group were the Jooklo Duo (who I'd never heard of); (female) 
tenor saxophonist Virginia Genta and drummer David Vanzan, playing fairly typical 
post-Coltrane free jazz. Genta's tenor tone was gruff, occasionally displaying some more 
rough-hewn lyrical touches, but there was never really any sense of development to what 
she played: she would introduce one idea, then, rather than taking that idea on and 
developing into something further (as Coltrane did), rais the horn in the air and give a 
generic screech. A bit frustrating - like going round in circles, or banging your head 
against a wall - not making a breakthrough into complete freedom, and thus feeling a bit 
restricted. The drummer was good though, really locking in with some rhythmically 
propulsive playing that at one point coalesced with the saxophonist for an impressive 
minute or so, before they seemed to drift apart. Perhaps not really on the same 
wavelength? The group's been going since 2004, but apparently Genta's only been 
playing tenor sax for two years (she started out on alto). Hard to judge, though, as they 
only played a short set. Perhaps they will develop further and their playing will start to 
coalesce more. 

The second group, and the one everyone had been waiting for: Tight Meat with 
Sonny Simmons. As was to be expected, it was not subtle at all: high- volume, high 
energy, collective improvisation, of the Ascension' kind. There was almost no let-up, 
although there was some wonderful moments where the band collectively paused for a 
micro-second, then launched in again, giving the re-entry a volcanic force, giving the 
briefest of breathing spaces: an effect that's quite hard to describe, but very effective in 
the moment. 

As a live experience it had an exhilarating quality, forcing you to participate in its 
pulsations, to pulsate along with the vibrations in the floor, created by all the noise 
coming from the stage. At its best (and this is what I like about free jazz), it seemed as 
though all the players had merged into one huge instrument, producing a wall of sound - 
sorry to have to use the cliche, but it's the best way I can think of describing it! You can 
listen to individual players if you choose (inevitably, I focussed on Simmons the most), 
but what you really concentrate on is the collective whole. This type of collective 
improvisation works on two levels in that way, and is, I suppose, somewhat similar to 
what many people value in free improve: the meshing and merging of personalities and 
sonorities into one, though the meshing here is obviously of a very different kind. 

Below: Sonny Simmons with Tight Meat 


The old criticisms about 'angry' music would certainly apply here, if you were 
disposed make them. In fact, judging by their demeanour while performing, I think that 
Keenan and Neilson probably believe them themselves - except they see it as a virtue 
rather than a vice, as a punk-like tool of rebellion and social protest. Still, while these are 
obviously important parts of the free jazz aesthetic, it's ultimately more complex than 
that, as Simmons demonstrates time and time again. The music offers a mixture of 
extreme emotions - it's sound stretched out on the edge, existing on the edge, daring to 
look out over the precipice and perhaps deciding to jump, or maybe to fall back and 

That's the positive: in the above paragraph, I also hinted at some of the drawbacks 
I felt while listening. Though Simmons was playing more melodically, lyrically at times, 
his fellow saxophonist, David Keenan, didn't seem to notice: he simply squealed and 
wailed away all night. I thought that the (more experienced) bassist was responding to 
Simmons fairly subtly, trying to collaborate with him in introducing a drop in tempo, in 
energy, a change of mood - but Keenan wouldn't let this happen, and neither would 
drummer Neilson, who played at the same loud, fast level all night. While the sound of 
the two saxophones going at it full pelt was admittedly a fine sound, variety is the spice 
of life, and there were times when you wished the other musicians would just sense what 
Simmons was doing and go with him. I'm on dangerous ground here, and I realise that I 
probably shouldn't impute motive in the following manner, but I feel that it could almost 
be interpreted as lack of respect - when you get the chance to play with someone who has 
the accumulated experience and wisdom of Sonny Simmons, you don't force him to go in 
your direction, you go with him in is. Still, the man seemed to be enjoying himself, 
joking with the audience at the end of the set, and, while Keenan and Neilson (who'd 


ripped his shirt off midway through) looked exhausted, utterly spent, he still seemed 
sprightly, as if he could go on like that for another few hours at least. I'm not sure he'd 
even broken a sweat. 

So, all in all: I'm not sure that this is a collaboration with that much mileage in it - 
not sure it would even generate an album, though I suppose it could. It did raise doubts in 
my minds about a younger generation of musicians talcing aspects of the 60s free jazz and 
simplifying them, which I don't think is doing very much for the music. But still, even 
simplified free jazz does things which no other genre can: it's not the only way, and more 
subtle musics are also needed, but it can give you a real rush that much jazz struggles to 
provide. I'd rather hear this than some bland, innocuous mainstream act any day. 

Above: David Keenan on saxophone. 



It's been rewarding compiling this first magazine, if a lot of work; reading, 
contacting, listening. Hence I would be very grateful if I could get some more 
contributors, otherwise this will become something of a one-man show. As you can 
probably tell from the preceding pages, I don't have a problem with expressing my 
opinions, and at length, but I know there are plenty of people out there with more 
informed ones than mine. So this is essentially a plea for help... 

I can't offer payment, at least at the moment, as it's going to be pretty difficult 
keeping this beast afloat, so the more people I can get writing the better. This magazine 
can hopefully only improve in quality, and with your help I know it can definitely do so. 

If there is anything in particular you want to send - gig or CD reviews, features, 
interviews, and anything else you can think of, really - please get in touch via email or 
via letter to the addresses provided at the end of the opening editorial. Additionally, I can 
delegate tasks... if you'd like to be put on some sort of bank of writers who I'll ask to do 
stuff, then please let me know. If you're a musician, I'd love to hear your work: feel free 
to send CDs for review, to the address provided at the bottom of the editorial. 

Anyway, that's it for now, hope you enjoyed the first issue, and hope you have an 
excellent 2008.... 

List of Contributors 

Michael Ardaiolo's music criticism can be viewed at the 'Audiversity' blog. 

Marcello Cellan- Marcello's excellent music criticism can be viewed at his 'The Blue in 

the Air' and 'Church of Me' blogs. 

Centrifuge helped to run the now-defunct 'Church Number Nine' blog, and now runs 'If 

You Know What I'm Saying', a blog devoted to his writing on the music of Anthony 

Braxton ( ). 

Andrew Forbes - Andrew runs a blog entitled 'This is Our Music' 

Stef Gijssels runs the excellent 'Stef s Free Jazz reviews' blog (http://stef-, from which his contributions here are taken. 

David Grundy studies English at the University of Cambridge. 

Dan Huppatz, originally from Melbourne, Australia, spent some time teaching at an art 

college in New York: hence his familiarity with the city's 'Downtown' scene. 

Noa Corcoran-Tadd studies Archeology and Anthropology at the University of 

Cambridge, and co-presents, with David Grundy, a jazz show on Cambridge Student 

Radio (CUR1350). 

Henry Kuntz is an improvising saxophonist, who has issued a number of CDs, and who 

ran the journal 'Bells' in the 1970s, which focussed on free jazz in America at the time. A 

wonderful resource, this has now been available online at the m-etropolis blog. 

Will Layman writes on jazz for the online cultural criticism magazine 'Pop Matters.' 

Andy Martin has written essays for a number of publications; he was editor of the 

magazine 'SMILE' for 26 issues. Along with Dave Fanning he has been a member of the 

groups Apostle 23 and, most recently, Unit. This latter group gave a performance at the 

2007 Freedom of the City festival which sparked the article included here. 


Daniel Melnick's writing can be viewed at the 'Soundslope' blog. 

Massimo Ricci runs the excellent online review page 'Touching Extremes.' 

Ian Thumwood is an amateur pianist with an extensive knowledge of the history and 

practise of jazz. His other enthusiasts include football and birdwatching. 

Rod Warner is a musician, and runs the 'Words and Music' blog 

( ). 

Seth Watter presents a radio show and runs a blog, both entitled 'Meshes of the 

Afternoon. ' 

Anthony Whiteford, a saxophonist, has been involved in improvised music in the Bristol 

area for a number of years. 

Thanks also to: Mike and Kate Westbrook, Joan Morrell, Steve Beresford, Veryan 
Weston, Trevor Watts, Phil Hargreaves, Andy Newcombe, John Rogers, Klaus 
Theimann, Matthew Brown, Doug Schulkind, and King Kennytone!